Lessons from Trees

The Tree is a common universal symbol that is found in many different traditions around the world. Trees are symbols of physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation and liberation, sustenance, spiritual growth, union and fertility. Exploring tree symbolism is one of the most beneficial way to learn big lessons in life. Trees are perfect examples of how to live, grow, transition, change and even die with grace. Cultures around the world hold trees as sacred symbols. This article explores tree meaning in many different ways.

1. Be flexible – the tree that bends a little to the harmless breeze will later grow to withstand the wild wind. Similarly, if you maintain a degree of flexibility in our attitudes and viewpoints, such persons will not be broken in any form of criticism or opposition.

2. Leaves – though they are small, are vital to the life of a tree. Similarly, in our lives, there are many whom we consider insignificant are indeed important to our sustenance and growth and should be taken good care of. Even a simple word of appreciation or thank you will go a long way in encouraging them and supporting you in your endeavours.

3. Do not be intimidated (disappointed) by small beginning in your life. A mighty oak or banyan tree was a small seedling one day. Efforts when enriched with strong motivation and determination will grow and only sky would be the limits.

4. Do not be afraid of change. Invigorate your life by letting go off the past and fast forwarding to something new. For the sprout to come out the shell has to be broken. Old leaves have to be shed for new ones to take its place.

5. Practice teamwork – in forests individual trees support each other. By interlocking roots and branches, trees in the forest survive powerful cyclones but a giant tree standing alone could easily be uprooted. Collaboration and teamwork is essential for success and growth.

6. It is important to have deep roots to survive and grow – deeper the roots, taller the tree and only such trees can withstand heavy winds or adverse external environmental conditions. Similarly, it is critical for us to develop deep roots wherever we are, whether in the place of our birth, place where we live or the company we work. Frequent change of job or living place does not help us develop deeper roots.

7. Grow where you are planted – every plant needs certain environmental and physical conditions to survive and grow, a tropical plant cannot grow in the arctic region or vice versa. If you think that people living in western countries are lucky and opportunities are unfavourably stacked in favour of them, think twice before you plan to immigrate to that nation. You may feel discriminated; even worse, you may not get the same opportunities as locals and may not even enjoy the climate and life style.

8. Avoid people who would cut you down.

9. Shed your leaves during harsh winter – during heavy snow falls, trees can collapse on their own weight if it does not shed the leaves. Similarly, lack of sun makes the leaves without much function during the winter. Many companies resort to large-scale retrenchment during recession or such severe external economic conditions to survive the difficult times.

10. Trees with fruits bend their heads – trees standing tall are those without fruits. Humility is an essential personality trait for those who are knowledgeable, successful and in high positions.

11. Be prepared for brickbats and criticism – people throw stones at fruit bearing trees only. The higher your position in society or in your organization, the harsher the criticism that you will hear.

12. A fast growing tree is weak and has a short life and a slow growing tree is stronger and has a long life. Manage your growth, be stronger, and stay long.

13. Trees that do not provide fruits are grown to be used as firewood and will be cut down when they reach certain age and size.  If you do not produce expected results for your company, you will be cut down in due course of time.

14. Work hard – trees and leaves work very hard. Leaves are the primary work force for the tree. During daytime, it takes sun light and prepares nutrition for the entire tree. At night it converts carbon dioxide into oxygen and serves the society. Our work culture and life should reflect that of a leaf, always engaged and working for the benefit of others.

15. Give shelter – a tree provides shelter for birds, butterflies, snakes and many such living organisms. It provides shade and shelter for tired pedestrians from the harsh sun or rain. Our lives should reflect that of a tree; help those in need and difficulty irrespective of caste, creed, religion or region.

16. Tree and an organization – tree reflects an organizational structure with branches and sub branches.

a. The roots anchor the plant. It is the head or corporate office. It absorbs the minerals and water from the soil, essential for the survival of the plant and also acts as a site for storage.

b. The stems provide the support for the plant. It produces new tissues and provides transportation between leaves and roots. It can also act as a storage place. The regional or branch offices that recruits and trains persons essential to run the organization.

c. Leaves are like workers in an organization, either organized singly or in pairs depending upon the requirements of nature. Leaves main function is photosynthesis, a process wherein carbon dioxide and water is combined with the help of sun light to produce the essential food for the plant and to the entire humanity. The waste product is oxygen, which is so vital for our survival. Leaves structure is designed to adapt to the nature.

Kirti Mukha – The Essence of Time.


Kirti Mukha



“Change is the only constant in life”

Above the main entrance of any Hindu temple or in some Hindu houses one can see a ferocious looking head of a monster called “Kirti Mukha”, literally meaning “the face-of-glory” and it represents the principle of all-consuming Time.

Origin of Kirti Mukha

Jalandhara, the powerful King of the Daityas wanted to marry Parvathy, the consort of Lord Siva. He sent ‘Rahu’ to Lord Shiva with a proposal to part with Parvati. On hearing the demand from Rahu that he should part with Parvathy so that Jalandhara can marry her, Lord Shiva became extremely furious. His anger resulted into the manifestation of a ferocious creature, which ran towards ‘Rahu’ to devour him. Rahu had no option but to take the refuge in Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva protected the life of ‘Rahu’. The hungry creature, asked Shiva as to what should he eat to satisfy his hunger. Lord Shiva instructed the monster to appease its hunger by devouring its own body commencing from its tail. The monster finished eating its own body leaving only its face intact. The monster’s face with sanguinary appearance impressed Lord Shiva and preferred to call it as Kirti Muka or ‘Face of Glory.’ Lord Shiva ordained to represent ‘Kirtimukha’ at the lintel of the sanctum of the Lord. The Lord also noted that whosoever worship the Kirtimukha would acquire the benevolent grace of the Lord.

Kirti Mukha, the face of glory is normally framed above the main entrance of the sanctum of Hindu temples and also at the entrances of some houses. Kirti Mukha represents the principle of all-consuming Time. Since Time is the great destroyer and takes from us all that is precious and separates us from our loved ones and objects it is shown as being wrathful and terrifying. It serves to remind the contemplator that everything is conditioned by time and space and all things in the universe including the deity depicted are all subjected to appearance and disappearance. Everything is impermanent and subject to constant change.

Time creates and Time destroys all creatures. It is Time that burns creatures and it is Time that extinguishes the fire. All states, the good and the evil, are caused by Time. Time cut short all things and creates them anew. Time alone is awake when all things are asleep: indeed, Time is incapable of being overcome. Know that all things past and future and all that exist at the present moment are the offspring of Time.

Do not be too proud of your health, wealth, youth, beauty, strength, position or power, for sure all those will change with time. Do not lament on your sufferings, sadness or misfortune, for they will also change and better times will come in your way. Therefore beware of time and that is the most important message one should take on seeing the Kiti Mukha upon visiting a Hindu temple.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

― Lao Tzu

“Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not.”

― Stephen King, The Green Mile

Hanuman and Success in life

KV Venugopalan

Hanuman is a universal God worshipped across continents irrespective of their religion, cast or creed. People worship Lord Hanuman to get blessings and to be free from evil spirits, to overcome complex problems in life such as long standing health problems, problems in marriage life, mental or psychological problems like depression, anxiety, fear, and to overcome negative attitude and induce courage. Hanuman worship helps one stay disciplined, achieve greater heights in life and career. Hanuman prayers also help one overcome bad habits like corruption, adultery, laziness, fickle mindedness, procrastination etc. It brings in confidence and stable mind. If you are said to be affected by shani dosha, then praying hanuman is beneficial. Most people pray to Lord Hanuman either on Tuesdays or Saturdays either by visiting Hanuman temples or at home and can also chant Hanuman Chalisa every day to get His blessings.

Hanuman – the Name

The name can be interpreted in two different ways. Hanu means Jaw and Man(t) means disfigured. As per mythology Hanuman’s jaw was disfigured by Lord Indra while he was trying to eat Sun thinking it is a fruit. The second meaning is Han means killed or destroyed and Man means Pride.

Both the meanings are same, someone who has destroyed his pride. Someone who is not arrogant or egoistic, one of the fundamental characteristic necessary to be successful in life. We can be proud of our achievements but never to display pride.

Hanuman Mantra

Whenever you pray to Lord Hanuman, one of the dyana mantra used is as follows.

“Mano-Javam Maaruta-Tulya-Vegam

Jite[a-I]ndriyam Buddhi-Mataam Varissttha |

Vaata-Atmajam Vaanara-Yuutha-Mukhyam

Shriiraama-Duutam Sharannam Prapadye |”


The meaning of the Mantra is as follows.


Manojavam – the one who is swift as mind

Marutatulyavegam – the one who has a speed equal to the wind God

Jitendriyum – the one who has complete control of his senses

Buddhimataamvarishtham – Superior intelligence

After the mantra one also chants Jai Bajrang Bali. This means

Bajrang Bali – the strong one (bali), who had limbs (anga) as hard as a Vajra.

Let us analyse the significance of this mantra.

To be successful in life one must be strong physically, mentally, intellectually and socially. Hanuman is a symbol of all the four and you pray him to be like him or to get his blessings to be like him. Physically Hanuman is the strongest; he can carry mountains, jump across oceans and defeat any person on earth due to his prowess. His body is hard as diamond (Vajra). He can execute any task assigned at the speed of thought (manojavam) and has superior intelligence. Finally one must have uncompromising discipline in whatever we do and that is only possible if we overcome temptations (Jitendrium). You are tempted to sleep that extra hour, skipping your morning exercise, you are tempted to eat and drink everything you see at the buffet, you are prone to procrastinate due to laziness, and these are signs of not having control over your mind or indriyas. To be successful in life, you must be like Hanuman, physically, mentally and intellectually strong and with complete control over all your temptations.

Hanuman – Parents and Guru

Legend says that Anjana, a beautiful Apsara in the celestial court of Lord Brahma was cursed by a sage that, the moment she fell in love her face would transform to that of a monkey. Lord Brahma thought of helping her and blessed her that as soon as a son is born to her, the effect of curse will be over and she will return to brahmalok. Anjana took birth on earth and later fell in love with Kesari, the monkey king and they both married each other. Being an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, she continued with her tapasya to please the God. Lord Shiva was impressed and she wished him to be her son so that she would be freed from the curse of the sage. Few days later, King Dasarath was performing a yagna after which the sage gave him kheer to feed all his wives. A portion of Kaushlya, his eldest wife, was snatched by a kite who flew all the way where Anjana was meditating. Lord Vayu (Pawan – Wind) on the signal of Lord Shiva kept the kheer in Anjana’s hand. Thinking it as Lord Shiva’s prasad Anjana ate it and thus gave birth to his incarnation – Pawan Putra Hanuman, the son of the Lord of the Winds.

According to this story, Lord Hanuman is an avatar of Lord Siva and the Son of Kesari and Anjana and also Lord Vayu. Kesari means Lion and lion represents courage. Anjana means pure intelligence and Gurukripa. Vayu represents strength, speed and purity. If a room is closed for days, the first thing one does is to open it and get some fresh air, so that the room is purified. Two things are needed in life to be successful, strength and purity. A strong person may not be always pure, but a pure person is always strong. Hanuman reflects both strength and purity.

Hanuman’s Guru was Lord Surya. When Hanuman approached Lord Surya to be his Guru, he refused telling that he is too busy and has no time to teach. However he agreed to be his guru if Hanuman can withstand the heat and walk backwards the constantly moving guru at equal pace, while taking his lessons. Hanuman agreed and learned all the vedas and sastras in the shortest possible time.

Becoming a scholar of repute is not an easy task and needs commitment, hard work and willing and ability to overcome all possible obstacles. Hanuman is the symbol of all that and one can only become like him by being like him.

Surya and Vayu, the Guru and Father, symbolises selflessness and purity. Surya gives light and heat to all, irrespective of the qualities of the receiver, so is Vayu, the life giver. They are both purifiers too. Except that Vayu serves others without making its presence felt, total selfless service to the humanity. Serve the society like Surya and Vayu; one can attain great success in life.

Blessings and Curses

Believing the sun to be a ripe fruit, Hanuman pursued it in order to eat it. Enraged Indra, who responded by throwing the Vajra (thunderbolt) at Hanuman, which struck his jaw and he fell down to earth. Upset over the attack, Hanuman’s father figure Vayu deva (the deity of air) went into seclusion, withdrawing air along with him. As living beings began to asphyxiate, Indra withdrew the effect of his thunderbolt. The Devas then revived Hanuman and blessed him with multiple boons to appease Vayu.

Brahma gave Hanuman a boon that “Nobody will be able to kill you with any weapon in war.” For any creative or productive functioning, the fundamental requisite is knowledge. Brahma represents knowledge and Hanuman had so much knowledge in every subject on earth that he could easily overcome any difficulties in life and be successful. Imagine any Professional with extensive knowledge in multiple subjects! That person is such a boon to the society s/he lives or organization s/he works.

From Shiva he obtained the boons of longevity, scriptural wisdom and ability to cross the ocean. Shiva gave Hanuman spiritual wisdom and ability to live a happy life. (Crossing the ocean means crossing the “samsara sagaram”, the life hurdle.)

Surya gave him two siddhis of yoga namely “laghima” and “garima”, to be able to attain the smallest or to attain the biggest form. Laghima and Garima is not only changing physical form, but also reflects how you interact with people in different positions, status, professions, etc. In business there is a saying – You will be delegated to the person whom you most talk like. That means one has to raise the standards of discussions while negotiating with the CEO of a company, and talk what interests people at the lower lever level while negotiating or interacting with them. A CFO is more interested in the financial benefits or increase in productivity of the new capital investment, but at the operator level they are more interested in ease of operation and minimum down time of the system. This unique ability is essential for any sales person to be successful in his job.

Anjaneya Prabhava

Hanuman was very powerful and could do anything that he wishes. In the forest, as a young boy, he will jump from trees to trees and hurl elephants at great speeds across. This disturbed the Rishis who were meditating there and cursed him that “you will forget your powers until someone reminds you”.

Sugriva sent four armies in four directions in search of Sita. The team led by Angada which included among others hanuman and Jambavan went to the southern side and finally reached the sea-shore. They were all sad about not finding Sita and did not want to go back to Sugriva with news of their failure. They thought that it was better to fast and die on the sea-shore. From a neighbouring hill, Sampati, the vulture King, saw this crowd of Vanaras, resigning themselves to fate. Having lost his wings and being unable to move, Sampati had been famishing for a long time. The Vanaras got up, went to Sampati and gently led him down from the hill. Sampati was old and weak, but his eyes had not lost their keenness. He could see things which were very far off. Looking in the South across the sea, he could see Sita captive in Lanka. He described in detail how Sita sat surrounded by rakshasas in a garden in Lanka. The Vanaras were wild with joy. They jumped about saying, “Now we know all about Sita. There is no need for us to die; Rama’s purpose will be achieved.”

They decided that they had to cross the sea; find Sita and only then go back to Sugriva to report what they had seen. They went to the edge of the water and discussed matters. “How can we cross the sea, enter Lanka, see Sita and return?” Anxiety and fear overwhelmed them. Angada said: “No matter how hard the task, one should never lose courage. Courage is the key to success. To lose heart is to lose everything.” Then he asked each one of his followers to state truly the maximum length that he could jump. One by one, they all spoke estimating the length they could jump, but all fell short of the distance to Lanka. Finally, the aged Jambavan cast an admiring look at Hanuman, who had sat apart, listening to the talk, but saying nothing. “I feel that the son of Vayu, sitting there in silence is the one best fitted by strength and skill to do this deed,” said the old Vanara and walked up to Hanuman and brought him to their midst. Jambavan addressed Hanuman thus: “Born of Anjana and the spirit of the Wind-God, you are equal to him in splendour, intelligence and power. But, for all your strength, you are virtuous and modest. You alone can help us to fulfil Rama’s purpose. Crossing the sea is no hard task to you. Increase your stature. You are the equal of Garuda.

Hearing Jambavan reminding him of his strength, Hanuman’s dormant courage was roused. At once his form began to swell like the sea in high tide. Even as the Vanaras were watching him, the son of Vayu grew in size. The radiance of his body filled Angada and his companions with wonder and joy. Reminded of his might by Jambavan, Hanuman was now determined to fulfil Rama’s purpose. And with fervour he uttered his faith: “May your words come true. Flying through the sky and alighting in Lanka, I shall see Janaki, I have no doubt. I shall return and bring you good news.

This is called “Anjaneya Prabhava”, not realising the full potential in each one of us. All of us have the innate ability to achieve whatever we want to in our life. However we resign ourselves thinking that it is beyond our ability until we see a guide or guru like Jambavan, who reminds us of our powers. If you are a professional, you must look for a mentor who has the knowledge, power and vision to guide you to achieve greater success and positions in your professional life. Infinite is the potential of the human being. We have to invoke that potential to realize the same.

Panchamukha Anjaneya


In another incident during the war, Rama and Lakshmana are captured by the rakshasa Mahiravana brother of Ravana, who held them captive in their palace in Patala, the netherworld. Mahiravana keeps them as offerings to his deity. Searching for them, Hanuman reaches Patala. Upon entering Patala, Hanuman discovers that to kill Mahiravana, he must simultaneously extinguish five lamps burning in different directions. Hanuman assumes the Panchamukha or five-faced form of Sri Varaha facing north, Sri Narasimha facing south, Sri Garuda facing west, Sri Hayagriva facing the sky and his own facing the east, and blows out the lamps. Hanuman then rescues Rama and Lakshmana.

What are the significances of these five faces?

Sri Hanuman (Original) – East – This face removes all blemishes of sin and confers purity of mind. To be successful one must live a life full of Ethics, Integrity & Trust.

Narasimha – South – Removes fear of enemies and confers victory. One needs Courage to face challenges and to be successful.

Garuda – West – Drives away evil spells, black magic influences, negative spirits and removes all poisonous effects in one’s body. Garuda is Lord Vishnu’s vehicle, as the King of birds he knows the secrets of death and the beyond. Garuda symbolises Mental, spiritual and physical power.

Varaha – North – Wards off the troubles caused by bad influences of the planets and confers all eight types’ prosperity (Ashta Aishwarya). Career progression can only be achieved by removing bad influences and by establishing better Image and exposure.

Hayagriva – Upwards – this face confers knowledge, victory, good wife and progeny. To achieve success in life one must have the necessary knowledge and skills and support and understanding from wife and children.

Pride and Emotional attachment

Shortly after he is crowned Emperor upon his return to Ayodhya, Rama decides to ceremoniously reward all his well-wishers. At a grand ceremony in his court, all his friends and allies take turns being honoured at the throne. Hanuman approaches without desiring any reward. Seeing Hanuman come up to him, an emotionally overwhelmed Rama embraces him warmly, declaring that he could never adequately honour or repay Hanuman for the help and services he received from the noble Vanara. Sita, however, insists that Hanuman deserved honour more than anyone else, and Sita gives him a necklace of precious stones adorning her neck.


When he receives it, Hanuman immediately takes it apart, and peers into each stone. Taken aback, many of those present demands to know why he is destroying the precious gift. Hanuman answers that he was looking into the stones to make sure that Rama and Sita are in them, because if they are not, the necklace is of no value to him. At this, a few mock Hanuman, saying his reverence and love for Rama and Sita could not possibly be as deep as he implies. In response, Hanuman tears his chest open, and everyone is stunned to see Rama and Sita literally in his heart.

This clearly reflects the love, dedication and loyalty that Hanuman had for Sita and Ram. Such pride and loyalty is mandatory for everyone towards the organization that one is working to be greatly successful. It is like patriotism, you are ready to go that extra mile for the success of your organization and you will be richly rewarded in due course of time for your efforts, dedication and loyalty.

Orange coloured Hanuman


One day Sita was wearing a red powder in the parting of her hair. Curiously Hanuman asked her why is she wearing the red powder. Sita replied “Hanuman! This is sindoor. Sindoor makes Lord Rama happy and would bless him with a long and prosperous life.” Listening to this Hanuman disappeared from the place and came back with his entire body including clothes fully covered with red sindoor. Lord Rama saw Hanuman covered with sindoor and asked the reason. Hanuman replied “Sita mata told me that by applying just a small pinch of sindoor on her head every day it will make you have a long and happy life. I thought if just a pinch will do so much, what will happen if I cover my entire body with sindoor.” Thus, Lord Ram gave a boon to all his devotees that those who apply sindoor to Hanuman and observe hanuman puja with sindoor would be blessed with a long, happy life and have their wishes fulfilled.

To be successful, one must be loyal and dedicated to the organization as well as the CEO/Immediate supervisor. Image you have a person working in your team who is willing to go that extra mile to ensure your success, what will you do for him?

Hanuman – Characteristics

Hanuman is a symbol of success and fulfilment. One needs courage, strength, intelligence, commitment and purity to be successful. Hanuman gets courage from his father – Kesari (Kesari means Lion), strength and Purity from his Father – Vayu. Intelligence from his mother – Anjana (Gurukripa) and Commitment from his Guru Surya – Come what may the Sun rises every day in the morning.

Hanuman never did anything for his happiness, always serving the King or the God. (Sugriva or Ram). Hanuman is the only GOD who has no blemishes or negative references on his name. Even Ram, Krishna, or every other GOD has some or other blemishes, but not Hanuman. Hanuman never failed in any of his efforts. Whatever task is assigned to Him is done with total commitment and success.

Vivekananda said, “Our young men must possess ‘muscles of iron and nerves of steel’, there could be no better role-model than Hanuman”.




Venu Payyanur

Brahma – The god of creation is called Brahma.  Brahma, the infinite, the source of all space, time, causation, names and forms, has many interesting and instructive designations.  Brahma is usually seen carrying the Vedas, a sceptre, a string of prayer beads, a water pot a spoon used in making offerings in the fire sacrifice, or a bow.  Brahma is usually portrayed with four heads and four arms.  

Brahma’s vahana is a hamsa or a swan. The bird hamsa is very beautiful, peaceful and graceful. It is suggestive of the fact that Brahma is the master of all the beauty and grace in the world, and He can help us in our effort to acquire these qualities. Hamsa also has more attributes, like being treated as symbol of purity, detachment, divine knowledge, cosmic breath (prana) and highest spiritual accomplishment. Such a high level of symbolism was attached to hamsa as it transcends the limitations of the creation around it: it can walk on the earth (prithvi), fly in the sky, and swim in the water.

This divine bird is bestowed with a virtue called Neera-Ksheera Viveka or the ability to separate milk and water from a mixture of the two. The significance of this is that justice should be dispensed to all creatures, however entwined it might be in a situation. Also, this virtue indicates that one should learn to separate the good from the evil and then accept that which is valuable and discard that which is worthless or evil.

The word “Hamsa” is a combination of two words, “aham”+ “sa”, which mean “I am He”. This awareness is that God exists only in enlightened persons. Rightly Brahma is the friend and philosopher of all the enlightened beings in the world and he has the power to give us this knowledge about our true nature. In view of the association of a hamsa with several attributes as indicated above, saints and other holy persons are given the title of paramahamsa, that is, the supreme hamsa. This title is affixed before the name and symbolizes that the particular person has reached a high level of spirituality and grace, such as Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

Lakshmi – “Goddess of Fortune and Wealth” – Lakshmi represents the beautiful and bountiful aspect of nature.  As Bhoodevi, the earth-goddess, she nurtures life; as Shreedevi, the goddess of fortune, she bestows power, pleasure and prosperity on those who deserve her grace.  To realize her, one must respect the laws of life and appreciate the wonders of existence. 

Shri Maha Lakshmi rides on an owl called Uluka. The owl is a solitary creature that remains awake in darkness and asleep during the day time. It rarely trust human beings and seldom seen in the company of any other bird. It in fact stays away from people as if it has no interest in the humanity. Those who pursue riches should be aware of these negative qualities and pray to Shri Mahalakshmi so that she would inculcate in them the qualities of trust, generosity and social responsibility and would make them popular among people. She would also help them come out of the darkness of ignorance, avarice and selfishness, which are generally associated with the pursuit of materialism. The owl is also regarded as an inauspicious image by the Hindus, who believe that if an owl visits a house in which people live, it is an ill omen. Shri Mahalakshmi with her grace can remove all negative, inauspicious and adverse influences from our lives. If someone is suffering from adversity, they should pray to her because she, who controls all ill-omens and adversities, can ward them off and bring them prosperity. Thus She has rightly been shown as using a rare bird like an owl as her vehicle. According to one Christian tradition, owls represent the wisdom.  Owl represents wisdom and knowledge because their nocturnal vigilance is associated with that of the studious scholar or wise elder.

Parvati – “Daughter of the Mountain” – The goddess that is Shiva’s wife in her most gentle form is called Parvati.  Parvati is depicted as a beautiful woman.  The Unconquerable and splendid manifestation of Parvati is known as Durga.  Durga has the role of a warrior goddess who destroys demons.  She is usually depicted with ten arms that hold the weapons of the various gods and contain within her the power of all the gods combined. She is the invincible power of Nature who triumphs over those who seek to subjugate her.   Durga’s vahana is a lion.  Her lion acts as her means of transportation and one of her many weapons.   Lion stands for cruelty, mercilessness, anger, violence and hostility towards other beings. Pravathi with her grace can help man to control all these qualities in him and become an enlightened being like Lord Siva.

Saraswati – “The Goddess of Wisdom” – Saraswati, the goddess of art, music and learning, usually holds a book and a stringed instrument called a veena.  She is the river of consciousness that enlivens creation and dispels the darkness of ignorance.  Without her there is only chaos and confusion.  To realize her one must go beyond the pleasures of the senses and rejoice in the serenity of the spirit.  Saraswati’s vahana is a peacock or a swan.  The peacock represents arrogance and pride over its beauty, and by having a peacock as her mount, the Goddess teaches Hindus not to be concerned with external appearance and to be wise regarding the eternal truth. The peacock also eats snakes, which symbolically means that she can help those who are accustomed to eating desires or for a better expression pursuing desires, by providing them with the divine knowledge and learning for which she is famous. The peacock is a graceful and beautiful bird and is known for its dance before the rain. This denotes that Shri Saraswati can immensely help those who want to pursue art and dance. Devi Saraswati is also shown riding a hamsa and the details are given above as the vehicle of Brahma.

Ganesh – “The remover of obstacles” – The chubby, gentle, wise, elephant-headed Ganesha, is one of Hinduisms most popular deities. He is the remover of obstacles, the deity whom worshippers first acknowledge when they visit a temple.  He is usually shown in sculpture accompanied by or riding a rat.  Since rats are seen as being capable of gnawing their way through most things, the rat symbolizes Ganesh’s ability to destroy every obstacle.

In India the rat, like the fox of our western tales, represents trick, cleverness, sagacity and political slyness. Therefore, as normally, the rat has been first conquered, then mastered and occupied by the One who is the incarnation of spiritual strength. After all, the rat had to bow to Ganesh, his Master, more efficient to guide him than his own insight.

At the Ganesh feet, on the ground, fruits or other food are often arranged. Near these offerings, the Ganesh rat is watching, standing on his back paws. The rat does not touch this food but looks at Ganesh to beg His permission. Food represents the properties, power and well-being. When a man uses to follow high principles in his life, prosperity may come naturally to him. Whatever prosperities are or are not at his disposal, this does not change anything in his mental attitude: he remains indifferent to these facilities. The rat symbolizes desire. This animal has a very small mouth and minute sharp teeth, but he is the most ravenous of all the animals. His greediness and eagerness are so strong that he robs more than he can eat and that he collects more than he may remember, so that he often leaves inadvertently burrows full of stock grains. This prominent characteristic of the rat fully justify that he is the symbol of greediness. Likewise, a small desire pervading the man’s mind may destroy all the achievements that he got for years on the material and spiritual levels. Therefore, looking up to Ganesh, the rat demonstrates that desires are fully controlled by a wise man.

Activities of a man having got these spiritual achievements are rather directed by his ability of discrimination and sound judgement than by the sensitive and irresistible wish to enjoy the whole collection of worldly things. Therefore, just as a mouse stealthily enters within things and destroys them from inside, unnoticed selfishness penetrates in our mind and quietly ruins all our undertakings. He can be used profitably only when he is mastered by a divine wisdom.

You may wonder how a small mouse can carry on its back a hefty personality like Ganesha. Here mooshika does not mean a mere mouse. It symbolises the darkness of ignorance because it is in darkness that the mouse moves about. Hence, Mooshika Vahana or Ganesha is one who subdues ignorance and dispels darkness. This also teaches us how humble and modest one should be. Ganesha in spite of his huge physical, mental and intellectual prowess conducts and carries himself so lightly that he can very well be carried by a very very small (compared to the size of Ganesha) and insignificant being-the mouse.

Additionally, our thoughts multiply many fold when left uncontrolled. Like mice attacking in the night, they stealthily attack us in the darkness of our ignorance. Ganesh seated on the mouse signifies His crushing our negative thoughts when we surrender our lives to Him. Our minds are extremely fickle and tend to run around here and there, completely leaving our control on it! Achieving control is a sign of great wisdom. The mouse at Ganesha’s feet signifies that He can bring our minds under his control and bestow grace and plentitude on us. Bowing to the Vighneswara’s also allows us to gain control over our minds, thereby, getting beyond our vighnas as well! The mooshika, staying at the Lord’s feet permanently, signifies the steady mind forever being in prayerful attitude, leaving aside all negativity and ultimately attaining bliss and oneness with Him.

Lord Subramanya’s Peacock represents as Vahana symbolising his conquest over ego, vanity and pride. Eyes of the peacock represents both SATH( existing) and ASATH ( non-Existence) This indicates “Maya”( Illusion) and the Lord has total control over ‘Maya’.


The Seven Horses – Surya’s vahana – Horses portray power, arrogance and speed.  The Sun God’s seven horses represent the seven sins and his control over the same. It also represents the way we need to control our base emotions so as to climb further and higher in the spiritual realm of our own lives.

Surya’s seven horses also represent the seven chakras or spiritual centres in our subtle body, the blossoming of which leads to the rising of the power of Kundalini or the serpentine energy residing within us.


Venu Payyanur

In the modern world, vehicles are seen as the status or power symbol of the person riding it more than a mere means of transportation. For example, Airforce one, the most famous official aircraft of the American President is specially designed and built and also the most photographed aircraft in the world. The car specially built for him by Cadillac is called the “Beast”. There is this rich Indian business man who lives in his 27 story house with 168 cars including a Benz costing in excess of rupees five crores. Politicians in India, including MPs and MLAs are constantly fighting to get a red beacon (lal bathi) on top of their cars to signify their authority and position in the social milieu.

In Hindu iconography, positive aspects of the vehicle are often representative of the deity that it carries. The vehicle of a particular deity in Hinduism has symbolic and philosophical significance. The symbolic meaning varies from deity to deity. Some Vahana teach human beings the value and importance of selfless service, devotion to duty and patience.  Often the Vahana of a Hindu God indicates a wrong or evil human quality which has been controlled by riding on it, or a good quality inherent in an animal or bird that needs to spread and adapted by all. Many vahana may also have divine powers as they serve the God/Goddess selflessly and remains in the presence of the lord all the time. And they will also have the power to grant boon or shower curses. The God/Goddess may be seen sitting, standing or riding the vahana or at times the vahana may be seen sitting near the God. These Vahana are the representation of the various energies (animal energies) that exists in the universe as well as in human beings and they need to be controlled and channel properly so as to transform ourselves spiritually. Each god or goddess is in-charge of a particular energy which he or she rides and controls at his or her will. These energies are present in man also, mostly as wild animal energies and they need to be controlled and channelled properly in order to transform the lower self and establish divine consciousness in him. For this he has to propitiate different gods who if satisfied with his supplication arise or descend into his consciousness and help him master them.

Below is a list of Hindu gods and goddesses and their respective ‘vahanas’

•Aditya (Sun God) – seven horses

•Agni – the Ram

•Brahma – Hamsa (swan)

•Durga – the lion

•Ganesha – the mouse

•Indra – the elephant

•Subramanya – the peacock

•Maha Lakshmi – the owl

•Saraswati – the swan or the peacock

•Shani – the crow

•Shiva – Nandi, the bull

•Varuna – seven swans

•Vayu – a thousand horses

•Vishnu – Garuda, the eagle & Adi Shesha, the serpent

•Yama – the male buffalo

Vishnu – According to various Puranas, Vishnu is the ultimate omnipresent reality and one of the most important Gods among the Trinity. Vishnu’s vahana is the eagle King named Garuda.  Garuda is depicted as having the golden body of a strong man with a white face, red wings, and an eagle’s beak and with a crown on his head. This ancient deity was said to be massive, large enough to block out the sun. Throughout the Mahabharata, Garuda is invoked as a symbol of impetuous violent force, of speed, and of martial prowess. Garuda symbolises the space element and the power of the sun, which can dry up the water. Hence Garuda is the natural enemy of snakes and he devours or controls them. He represents the spiritual energy of which devours the delusions of jealousy and hatred, which are represented by the snake. Garuda is also the openness: he can stretch out his wings and soar into space. Garuda represents the human thoughts which can fly in all directions at incredible speed. Lord Vishnu can help us to control our thoughts.

Another name for Garuda is “Veda atma”; Soul of the Vedas. The flapping of his wings symbolizes the power of the Divine Truth of Vedic wisdom. Also the eagle represents the soul. Garuda carrying Vishnu symbolizes the soul or jiva-atma carrying the Super soul or Param atma within it.

Lord Vishnu is seated on Adi Shesha, the serpent god, who represents the desire consciousness in us. The serpent Anantha represents thoughts, endless thoughts that pass through our minds all the time. That is why it has thousand hoods symbolising thousands and thousands of thoughts passing through our minds at any given time. In many pictures, the serpent is shown with five hoods, which represents our five senses, hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching, based on which our thoughts are generated. Lord Vishnu can help us either to fulfil these desires or control them.

Vishnu is shown wearing two earrings: The earrings represent inherent opposites in creation — knowledge and ignorance; happiness and unhappiness; pleasure and pain. Similarly his vehicles also represent the inherent opposites in creation – Garuda and the snake sesha.

Lord Shiva represents the aspect of the Supreme Being that continuously dissolves to recreate in the cyclic process of creation, preservation, dissolution and recreation of the universe. Lord Shiva is the Lord of mercy and compassion. He protects devotees from evil forces such as lust, greed, and anger. He grants boons, bestows grace and awakens wisdom in His devotees. Lord Siva rides the Bull, Nandi, which stands for the bullying, aggressive, blind and brute power in man. The bull symbolizes both power and ignorance. It also stands for unbridled sexual energy, Kama. Only Lord Siva can help us control these and transform them. Lord Shiva’s use of the bull as a vehicle conveys the idea that He removes ignorance and bestows power of wisdom on His devotees. Have you seen villains in Hindi movies, they are generally shown as physically strong persons with lack of intelligence or thinking power. They are the bulls, if under control will do whatever the master wants, or else it can destroy you also.


Venu Payyanur

Animals are also symbolic. Many cultures through the ages have regarded specific animals as representing gods, divine functions and principles, power, the supernatural, etc. They also represent our feelings and affections, some good and some bad. We can look at animals, on their own, or in groups and see a possible reflection of our own inner state. After all we sometimes say that a person is “as cunning as a fox” or “as stubborn as a mule” so we are already used to making some link between animals and how we feel and act.

The place that animal symbols hold in the Chinese culture is perhaps considered to be unparalleled than what we find to be true regarding other cultures. The Chinese philosophers using their profound knowledge and careful observation of the natural world identified certain animals with specific qualities that symbolize certain divine functions and principles and were chosen as symbols for that particular aspect of divinity. Chinese philosophers divided the 12 animals into two categories of Yin and Yang (the underlying principles of Chinese philosophy and medicine), corresponding to the Five Elements (Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth), and then created a set of fortune telling methods which proclaim that the twelve Chinese horoscope animals decide people’s fates. As a result, the Chinese Zodiac began to connect with people’s characters, friendship, love, marriage, career, health, fortune and so on. People thought that when a person came to the year of his attribute (decided by the year when he was born), he must wear a red belt to pursue good fortune and shun calamity. Even children had to wear a red vest and underpants in their birth year. This custom of ‘Birth Year’ is still popular throughout China.

Symbols of the Chinese Horoscope Cycle – The Twelve Earthly Branches and Their Attributes

RAT: intelligent, enterprising, has devotion to purpose, but can be devious and scheming at times.

OX: strong, steadfast and dependable, but not necessarily stupid; faithful to the end, slow to anger, but can be very forceful.

TIGER: loyal, courageous, energetic, strong, cunning. The tigress tends to be shrewish.

RABBIT: modest, fast mover, has delicate senses, and is a good listener.

DRAGON: benign, embodies wisdom, strength and goodness, protector of the weak.

SNAKE: observant, quick to anger, usually possesses great physical beauty and is not necessarily venomous except when protecting the family.

HORSE: strong and powerful, usually vain if a woman, warlike and chivalrous.

SHEEP: proud, domineering, strive to help and guard their fellows, and are sometimes excellent doctors.

MONKEYS: quick and keen of wit, highly observant, curious, loving, a good parent, and excellent in small enterprises.

ROOSTER: quick to fight, single-purposed and persistent.

DOG: loyal, steadfast, persistent in adversity, sensitive to feelings.

PIG: highly intelligent, scholarly, easily angered, easily swayed and affected by emotions.

Egyptian towns usually had their own local sacred animal. It was thought that some gods and goddesses represented themselves on earth in the form of a single representative of a specific species, and honoring that species of animal would please the god or goddess associated with the animal. The animal believed to be the incarnation of the god or goddess lived a pampered life in and near the temples and religious centers

The following animals appear in a variety of cultures and represent a variety of things. In one case an animal might symbolize something good, while in another culture might consider it representative of evil. Each animal below is followed by symbols from different cultures and religions.

Alligator – Aggression, survival, adaptability, cunning, deceptive.

Ant – Group-minded, perseverance, self-discipline, group effort, teamwork, industriousness, orderliness, strength, stamina, and honour.

Ape/Monkey – Mischief, mimicry, cunning, benevolence.

Bat – Guardian of the night, cleaner, obscurity, messenger, double nature, happiness, good luck, longevity, peace; also – hypocrisy, melancholy, revenge, wisdom.

Buffalo – Sacredness, life builder. The buffalo provides all good things for living, and bestows great curing powers.

Bull – Wealth, potency, beneficence, generative force, male procreative strength, kingship, taming of the masculine and animal nature, destructive force.

Butterfly – Metamorphosis, carefree, transformer, immortality, rebirth, resurrection, grace, light, soul.

Cat – Guardianship, detachment, sensuality, stealth, desire, liberty, pleasure, magic, lust, pride, vanity.

Cow – Nourishment, motherhood, power of Earth, plenty, procreation, gentleness, nurturing.

Crow – Messenger, death, wisdom, communication, the underworld.

Deer – Love, gentleness, kindness, gracefulness, sensitivity, purity of purpose, walking in the light, swift, nimble, meek, gentle, meditation, love, longevity, wealth.

Dog – Guidance, protection, loyalty, fidelity, faithfulness, watchfulness, the Hunt.

Dolphin – Kindness, play, savior, guide, sea power, swift, intelligence, communication, breath control, awareness of tone.

Donkey – Humility, patience, peace, stupidity, stubbornness, lewdness.

Dragon – Power of Earth, combining bird and serpent as matter and spirit, breath of life, supernatural power, magic, strength, wisdom, knowledge, guardian.

Eagle – Divine spirit, air, the sun, power in battle, protection from evil, clear vision, success, prosperity, wealth, intelligence, renewal, courage.

Elephant – Strength, fidelity, memory, patience, wisdom, intelligence, power.

Fox – Cunning, provider, intelligence, feminine magic, diplomacy, wildness.

Frog – Power of water, sensitivity, medicine, hidden beauty, power.

Goat – Vitality, fertility, creativity, virility, abundance, lust.

Hare – rebirth, rejuvenation, resurrection, intuition, balance, fertility, fire, madness, transformation.

Hawk – Nobility, recollection, cleansing, messenger, observer, Solar, clarity, discrimination, inspiration, the soul.

Horse – Stamina, mobility, strength and power, coping under difficult circumstances, love, devotion, loyalty, the land, travel. Life and death symbol, intellect, wisdom, power, nobility, energy, freedom, wildness, divination, prophecy, fertility.

Jackal – Guide of souls, associated with cemeteries.

Kingfisher – Beauty, dignity, speed, calmness, serenity.

Leopard – Ferocity, aggression, intrepid, Great Watcher, courage, activity, speed.

Lion – Solar, splendor, power, majesty, strength, courage, nobility.

Lizard – Conservation, agility, promotes dreaming.

Mouse- Shyness, Quiet, Attention to Detail, Sneakiness.

Owl – Wisdom, truth, patience, darkness, a death messenger, divination, solitude, detachment, wisdom, change, totem of clairvoyants and mystics.

Python – Darkness, feminine, power of Earth, wisdom.

Rabbit – Alertness, nurturing.

Ram – Sacrifice, breakthrough, achievement, virility, creativity, the Sun, solar power.

Salmon – Instinct, persistence, determination, wisdom, inspiration, rejuvenation.

Serpent – Life, rebirth, resurrection, wisdom, passion, healing, poison, preserver, destroyer, malice, fertility.

Snake – Shrewdness, transformation, life, death and rebirth, rain, fertility.

Spider – Creative, pattern of life, connects the past with the future, creating possibilities.

Swan – Grace, balance, innocence, faithfulness, solitude, retreat, poetry, sincerity.

Tiger – Creator, destroyer, strength, ferocity, power, anger, power of Earth.

Turtle – Self – contained, creative source, Earth, informed decisions, planning, and adaptability.

Wolf – Loyalty, success, perseverance, stability, thought, pathfinder, teacher, intuition, learning, the shadow.


Venu Payyanur

Number 10 – symbolically represents the incarnations of GOD, the coming together of 1 and 0, the saguna brahman and the nirguna brahman. An incarnation is GOD in human form.

  • Lord Vishnu has taken 10 incarnations.
  • Ten is the foundation of most counting systems, including the decimal systems.
  • In Bible, there are 10 commandments.
  • To reduce something to one tenth or make almost extinct is called ‘decimate’.
  • Something that scores perfectly, like in sports, is called perfect 10.


Number 18 – This number has great spiritual significance in Hinduism.

  • There are 18 Parvas in Mahabharata.
  • Bhagavad Gita has 18 chapters.
  • Mahabharata war was fought by 18 divisions of army (11 in the side of Kauravas and 7 in the side of Pandavas) and lasted 18 days.
  • All the vedas have 18 chapters.
  • There are 18 puranas.
  • Sabarimala Ayyappa temple has 18 holy steps and the Darshan is complete only if one climbs the 18 steps with ‘irumudi’ on his head. The 18 steps have great spiritual significance. First five steps symbolises the five indriyas, vision, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. The next 8 steps symbolises the ‘ashta-ragas’ of kama, krodha, lobha, moha, madha, matsarya, asooya and dhumb. (desire, anger, avarice, lust, pride, competition, jealousy and boastfulness ). Next three steps represents the three gunas, satva, tajas and tamas. The last two steps represents vidya (knowledge) and avidya (ignorance).
  • One becomes major at the age of 18.


Number 108 – another number with great spiritual and symbolic significance in Hinduism.

  • 0 stands for nirguna brahman, the GOD, 1 stands for saguna brahman, the god in human form and 8 signifies eternity.
  • In one minute, we breathe in approximately 15 times, in 1 hour 900 times, and in 12 hours 10800 times, and in a day 10800 * 2 times. A day consists of 24 hours, and if we set aside half the day for our day to day routines, then one can spend 12 hours for recitation of one’s idol. Therefore, the maximum number of times one can recite “mantra”, or perform “Jap” are 10800. If one wants to obtain 100% benefit of its jap, then performing jap 108 times will give you the benefit of 100%. That’s why in a “Mala”, there are 108 beads. It is written in Vedas, that 1 Jap corresponds to 1 mala (which has 108 beads), therefore performing jap of 108 malas will result in 100% benefit.
  • Astronomically, there are 27 constellations in our galaxy, and each one them has 4 directions, and 27 * 4 = 108, In other words the number 108 covers the whole galaxy.
  • According to Indian mythology, there are 4 Yugs
    • Satyug – consists of 1728000 years (1+7+2+8 = 18 == (1+8 = 9)
    • TretaYug consists of 1296000 years (1+2+9+6 = 18 = (1+8 = 9)
    • DwaparYug consists of 864000 years (8+4+6) = 18 = (1+8 = 9)
    • Kaliyug consists of 432000 years      (4+3+2) = 9
    • (1×1) x (2×2) x (3x3x3) = 1x4x27 = 108. (So what?)
    • Sanskrit alphabet: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 are 108.
    • There are 108 Upanishads
    • Sri Yantra: On the Sri Yantra there are 54 marmas where three lines intersect. Each intersection has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti qualities. Thus, there are 108 points that define the Sri Yantra as well as the human body.
    • According to Ayurveda, there are 108 pressure points in our body.
    • There are 108 feelings, with 36 related to the past, 36 related to the present, and 36 related to the future.
    • In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equal 108.
    • Sun and Earth: The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth. The distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.
    • Moon and Earth: The average distance of the Moon from the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.
    • The Nepalese parliament has 108 seats.
    • Buddhist followers use 108 beads in their malas. They implement the following formula:
      • 6 x 3 x 2 x3 = 108
      • 6 senses [sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought]
      • 3 aspects of time [past, present, future]
      • 2 condition of heart [pure or impure]
      • 3 possibilities of sentiment [like, dislike, indifference]
    • Most Hindu deities have 108 names – Ashtothara satha namavali.
    • In India the emergency toll free number is 108.




Lord Ayyappa – Part 3

Venu Payyanur

The pilgrimage to Sabarimala is a symbol of love, equality, and devotion. The outstanding feature of the pilgrimage is that it is not at all sectarian. Anyone notwithstanding the caste, creed or religion he belongs to, can unhesitatingly join the pilgrimage, subject to the observance of the prescribed austerities. As a devotee of Ayyappa there exists no discrimination between the rich and the poor or the high-born and the low-born. This unique aspect of the pilgrimage conveys to the people the message that all men are created equal. Once a devotee wears the garland round the neck and black attire round the waist as the preliminary ritual of the pilgrimage, he identifies himself with the Lord. He is addressed as ‘Swami’ or ‘Ayyappa’ and on his turn he addresses others in same terms. He sees everyone including himself as the image of ‘Ayyappa Swami’, thus upholding the Vedic dictums of ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ and’ Tattwamasi’.

Why does one wear black colour clothes and mala’s etc during the Vrata period? – The colour black signifies no colour. This is also the real state of the world as at night we do not see any colour. Only in light we see the colour and colour also gives us the feeling of differences. (For example White man, black man, etc). Therefore the colour black signifies that there is no difference between you and me, the rich and the poor, the high born and the low born and as well as “GOD” and man, as everything is god and god is everything. By not shaving, cutting your nails, not combing, etc, you are strengthening your “tapasya”. This also means that you are not interested in anything else in the world except seeing “GOD”; you are not interested in getting attracted by others or in physical pleasures as your pursuit is purely spiritual.

Significance of the posture of Ayyappa and the “Yogapattam” (something that is tied to the God’s legs and back) – As you can see, the posture of Lord Ayyappa is significantly different from any other gods that you would see. In this case the lord is neither sitting fully nor standing. This is called “Yoga Padasanam”. As per scriptures, the left thigh is for the wife to sit and right thigh for the children. Since lord Ayyappa is a confirmed “brahmachari, he give no place for a wife or children and by tieing it with the yogapattam, he declares that there will never be any place for a wife or children.

The sacred 18 steps (Ponnu Pathinettampadi). The inner meaning of   these 18 steps is as follows: – The first five steps represent the Five Senses (Panchendriyas) i.e. visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory and tactile. These signify the mortal nature of one’s body.  The next eight steps represents the eight Ashtaragas viz Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Madha, Maltsarya, Asooya, Dhumb (Love, Anger, Avarice, Lust, Pride, Unhealthy Competition, Jealousy and Boastfulness). The next three steps represents the three Gunas (nature-born qualities), Satv, (perspicuity, discernment), Rajas (activity, enjoyment) and Thamas (inactivity, stupor). The last two steps represent Vidya (Knowledge) and Avidya (Ignorance).

It is believed that, those who detach themselves from all these worldly pleasure can see the Lord Ayyappa in real sense. It is considered that after climbing up these eighteen steps reverently, one symbolically detaches oneself from all the worldly ties that bind one physically and mentally to the world. It is only then that a person will be in a receptive condition to be one’ in consonance with the concept of ‘The Ultimate Creator’. There are many other opinions also about the inner meaning of the   holy steps.

Tattwamasi i.e. ‘You are that’ – when you reach the “Sannidhanam” the first thing you see is the word written in Malayalam and Sanskrit at the sanctum sanctorum. What does this mean? You reach the temple complex in search of “GOD” and there you read this, means that you are “GOD” yourself and no need to go anywhere in search of him, because the GOD resides with in you and always.

Irumudi – Before starting the pilgrimage to Sabari Hills, each devotee prepares an Irumudi (A bag with two separate compartments and with two knots) for the long and strenuous journey through jungles.  The front compartment contains the ghee-filled coconut and the other one includes food and personal belongings.  The devotee walks by foot all the 8 miles from the shore of the Pampa River to Swami Sannidhanam (the open hall in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum), crosses the 18 steps and pours the ghee over the idol of the Lord.

The walk by foot through the jungle symbolizes that the path to spirituality requires greater efforts.  The coconut represents the human body, the outer shell of the coconut symbolizes ego, and the ghee is the Atman (human soul).  Coconuts have three eyes: two eyes represent the intellect and the third eye is the spiritual eye.  The idol represents Brahman.  The rear compartment of the Irumudi symbolizes ‘Praarabdha Karma’ (accumulated worldly possessions).  The devotee exhausts all the worldly possessions during the journey and reaches the Sannidhanam with the ghee filled coconut.  The devotee is reminded that worldly possessions hinder the progress of liberation. The devotee opens the spiritual eye of the coconut, breaks the coconut and pours the ghee (Atman) on to the idol (Brahman).  At this time, the devotee has detached the ego and worldly possessions.  He or she has developed an attitude of total surrender to the Lord (infinite love for the Lord).  The devotee begs Him to grant the total Unity of Atman with the Brahman.  This liberation of Atman from Ego and Wordily Possessions is the Message of Vedanta in Symbolic Language. This Symbolism is flawless and complete. 

Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa

Lord Ayyappa – Part 2 – VenuPayyanur

What makes headlines of newspapers in India these days? If you read it carefully one can easily understand some of the major social issues facing our country. Religious intolerance, caste related violence, terrorism, Naxalism, alcoholism, regional and inter-state squabbles, atrocities against women, poverty related issues and rising inequality, over population, corruption, etc. The list can go on…. Is there any solution that our current political class and their leaders can offer to the common man who is running from pillar to post to meet their daily requirements and leading an insecure and frightened existence? Unfortunately the so called political leaders are all busy making money for themselves and we can see scams after scams being unearthed by an overactive media these days!

If there is one solution that can minimise, if not eliminate completely, most of the above evils are the belief in Ayyappa and following the teachings of Ayyappa every day and throughout one’s life. What are those?

To understand the significance of Ayyappa cult and what it can do to humanity, let us all visit the shrine at least once in our life time. This will teach you so many lessons, if put to practice in your daily life; can make a significance difference to you and the society at large. More people following the same can change the society and the country. However one has to follow certain rituals and austerities before undertaking such a journey.

Austerities normally start from the first day of the Malayalam month Vrishchikam. (Mid November). Devotees initiate the vrutham by wearing a Thulasi or a Rudraksha mala. After this ceremony, the pilgrims are addressed as “swami” or “ayyappa” until their completion of the pilgrimage. During the period of vrutham, Devotees are expected to undergo practices of simple living, and absolute cleanliness. The mind and body are to be kept impeccably pure and absolute celibacy is practiced. The devotee is expected to behave in an austere and sober fashion during his vrutham. Total abstinence from all vices like alcohol, tobacco and non-vegetarian food is stipulated. The devotee is expected wear black/blue/saffron clothes. The devotee is expected to pray daily in the mornings and evenings after bathing. The vrutham continues till the pilgrim returns from his pilgrimage to Sabarimala and removes his `mala’ after breaking a coconut and offering prayers. The life of the man can be improved and re-energized by performing Tapas or austerity. Tapas may be performed in body, speech and mind as per ‘Gita’. When man applies himself to these three components, he changes for the better.

On the day of starting the vrutham the devotee shall raise early, bath and offer prayers to family deity, Navagrahas and perform pooja to the holy mala. Then he shall go to temple with his Guru. The mala has to be received from the Guru in midst of chanting of Saranam. After wearing the mala the devotee becomes Lord Ayyappa himself and starts the demands of pious life.

  • The devotee shall withdraw from all social activities and spend his time by taking part in praying, poojas, bajans, visiting temples, cleaning temples, feeding the poor, helping the poor/sick and attending religious discourses.
  • He shall take only satvic foods and refrain 100% from taking meat, intoxicating drinks / drugs, chewing betel leaves and from smoking.
  • He shall bathe twice, if possible thrice, daily and perform pooja by at least chanting 108 Ayyappa Saranam. He shall continuously chant Saranam Ayyappa in mind, both at work and at home.
  • He shall not hurt anybody verbally or physically.
  • He shall treat all co-devotees as Lord Ayyappa himself and serve them in all the ways.
  • He shall not feel proud of the respect and privileges he gets when he is wearing the holy mala. When others prostrate themselves on his feet he shall not feel proud but dedicate the same to Lord Ayyappa and say aloud ‘Lord save everybody for their faith in you’.
  • He shall not cause inconvenience to his family members on account on observing the vrutham.
  • As he starts his vrutham every year, he shall think that he is doing the same for first time and follow all the rules of the vrutham strictly.
  • He shall strictly follow brahmacharya (continence), refrain from sex, thinking of sex, develop passion against all women including his wife, and treat all women with motherly feeling.
  • He shall not apply oil to his hair and shall not take bath with oil smeared over his body.
  • He shall not sleep on bed but on floor, he shall not use pillow but wooden block, he shall not use footwear but walk with bare feet.
  • He shall totally surrender himself to Lord Ayyappa.

What are the benefits of following the above austerities?

  • Bring discipline in your life, most essential for success in any walk of life. Today’s youngsters don’t see rising sun, do not eat their meals on time, do not meditate or practice humility in their life. By following all the above austerities, you actually become a different person, and others will respect you for that.
  • Eliminate alcoholism, probably the biggest benefit. In fact I have known many who undertake pilgrimage to Sabarimala not because he is a staunch devotee, but hardcore alcoholic and genuinely want to get rid of that dreadful habit.
  • Ahimsa is followed by becoming vegetarian and also very good for the body.
  • Ego and ego-centric behaviours are kept on check and mind becomes calm and composed. One can feel the serenity around the practitioners and feel safe with such persons.
  • Life style one follows during the ‘vrutham’ is the best and purest for anyone wanting to lead a healthy, happy and peaceful life. If possible continue the life style throughout the year.

Visiting the holy shrine during the Makara sankranti is a divine experience in all aspects.  After a long journey, you reach Pampa, the holy river. The 4 Km trek to the “Sannidhanam” starts after a ritualistic bath in the river and a visit to the nearby Ganesha temple. Walking barefoot with “irumudikettu” on your head, chanting and singing praises of the lord, you start your long trek to the mountains. Depending on your age, stamina and members of your group, it could take from 30 minutes to three hours to the temple. Thousands of devotees are already in the queue, feverishly chanting “Swamiye, Ayyappa” and your waiting time could be 1, 5 or 10 hours depending upon the day of your visit. But the experience you gain while standing in that queue is unique.

  • Thousands of devotees are there, all wearing a black, blue or saffron dhoti, no shirt, Thulasi or Rudraksha mala around their neck, irumudikettu on their heads. You cannot recognize whether they are Hindus or Muslims or any other religion, high cast Brahmans or adivasi, rich or poor, malayalee or Telugu, boss or subordinate, celebrity or common man, all are equal. Probably this is the only place in India where absolute equality and socialism is practiced. Even though you may see few police officers or politicians getting special treatment, that is very few compared to the number of people visiting the shrine or compared to what you see in famous temples like Tirupati or government offices.
  • The divine feeling, satisfaction and pleasure you gain at the time of “darshan’ is directly proportional to the pain you undergo during the 41 days of vrutham and the long trek to the mountains and the long wait in the queue.
  • In spite of the fact that you have to stand in the queue for a very long time, with the irumudikettu on your head, one can hardly see any anger or frustration among the devotees. Humility and patience is the important virtues one develops during these tapas and if practiced throughout life can benefit immensely.

The very fact that more and more Ayyappa temples are being built across the country and the number of devotees visiting the holy shrine is increasing every year, it is very clear that common man find this extremely useful and beneficial to their life. It helps them grow mentally, spiritually, intellectually and physically. It helps them to lead a healthy and happy life. It reduces animosity between people and one learns to respect others irrespective of their religion, cast, financial or social status. When you address others are ‘Swami’ meaning Master, you learn humility. Let us all become the devotee of lord Ayyappa, if not for religious reasons but for the great lessons it teaches in our way of life, socialistic and secularist practices.

‘Swamiye saranam’

Lord Ayyappa – Part 1

Venu Payyanur

Lord Ayyappa is the best thing that happened to humanity for its spiritual and social upliftment. Mythological and historical stories of Lord Ayyappa are very interesting but not covered in this article. (Readers if interested can write to the author for details). In this era of social unrest and religious intolerance, followers of Ayyappa are setting shining examples for others to emulate and follow. I am personally a devotee of Lord Ayyappa and I am sure you all will become one after understanding the significance of the faith called Ayyappa.

To put things in right perspective, a bit of history is in order.

Buddhism was started approximately 2500 years ago (5th century BCE) mainly on account of unbearable atrocities and cruelties practiced by the then ‘Hindus’, by animal and human sacrifices and internal fights between various sects such as Vaishnava, Shaiva, shaktha, etc. Within 1000 years, the religion had spread across India and many nearby countries mainly on account of King Asoka who embraced Buddhism and supported it by various means. Finally it was Jagatguru Adi Sankaracharya who liberated Hinduism and reestablished supremacy of Hinduism in India. To avoid any future conflicts between various Hindu sects, he also practiced and propagated “Smartism” wherein he proclaimed that praying to any of the 5 Gods, Vishnu, Siva, Devi, Surya and Ganesha (Subramanian was added later on) one can attain Brahman, the ultimate reality. The great Guru and social reformer was born in Kerala during 788 AD.

Islam is believed to have entered India through Kerala. Historians says that Muslim history in Kerala go back to 7th century AD when the religion originated in Arabia. The numbers increased in the 9th century. The Jews and Arabs of the Pre-Islamic period were among the pioneers of spice trade with Kerala. The religion of Islam was also by these traders from Middle East, who later settled in Coastal belt of Kerala. In the 8th century there were many centres for religious conversion in the state. Cheraman Perumal’s (one of the prominent kings of Kerala who embraced Islam) pilgrimage to Mecca was a major influence in this regard. It is believed that Malik Ibn Dinar, a disciple of Prophet Mohammed was the first person who propagated Islam in Kerala.

The origin of Kerala’s Christians dates back to 52 AD, when St. Thomas came to the region landing in the port of Cranganore near Cochin. He visited different parts of Kerala and converted local inhabitants including many from the upper cast Namboodiri Brahmins. It is also believed that St. Thomas established Churches in seven places in Kerala (Kodungallore, Palayur, Paravur, Kokkamangalam, Niranam, Chayal, Korakkeni, Kollam) and a chappal (half church-“Arappalli”) at Thiruvankottu. An added fillip to the growth of the Church took place when a group of about 400 people migrated from Syria in 345 AD and joined the then existing Kerala Church.

Now try to visualise the social and religious situation prevalent during 9th century AD in Kerala! A re-emerging Hinduism but the wounds of sect war still bleeding, Buddhists trying to survive at any costs, Muslims and Christians trying to expand their reach by conversion, forced or consensual, and issues related to such conversion, people may be running helter shelter to protect themselves from the social and civil unrest, if not physically but mentally!

The Pandya royal family had to flee Madurai because of threats to their lives posed by their own ministers. A branch of the fleeing family moved westward, briefly staying at various places it acquired by purchase. The family kept on the move for over a century, finally reaching Pandalam in 903 AD. This was chosen to be the permanent home for the royal family. The then ruler of Venad (later Travancore) helped to establish the kingdom at Pandalam. By the time, all members of the family reached Pandalam and a full-fledged kingdom was established, it was 1194AD. The territories under the Pandalam administration extended to over 1,000 square miles mainly eastward and covered the mountain ranges, consisting of 18 holy hills including Sabarimala. It is recorded in the history books that secularism was one of the guiding principles of Pandalam family and there was peaceful co-existence of various religious groups. There are many examples of the Pandalam Rajas extending lavish help in constructing churches and mosques in their territory. However how did the King of Pandalam achieve such a difficult task considering the fact that rest of the country was embroiled in religious intolerance, chaos and confusion?

This is the time we should give credit to the brilliance of the King who established the Ayyappa temple, the traditions and practices that with one stroke he achieved the unthinkable! Probably much more than what Sankaracharya achieved to unite various sects of Hinduism, the Raja of Pandalam ensured religious harmony in his kingdom and set a shining example for all across the world to follow forever.

Let us analyze the religious significance of Ayyappa traditions

  • Ayyappa is considered as the son of Siva and Vishnu. Since Devi is the wife of Siva, she is also considered as his mother. So with one stoke of highly imaginative thinking he unites the various sects of Hinduism. Shaiva followers will consider Ayyappa as their lord, so is Vaishnava and Shaktha sect followers. Vibhuti (Ash), kalabham and Kumkumam are all used by the devotees in the temple as well as carried in their Irumudikettu. These also symbolically represent the three main deities.
  • There is a separate mosque for “vavar” at Erumeli, enroute to Sabarimala and devotees are expected to pay their respects to the Muslim warrior before proceeding to the holy hills. An example of highest level of Hindu-Muslim unity and friendship.
  • “Swami Saranam, Ayyappa saranam” is the common cry you will hear from millions of devotees across the world. The usage of the word “saranam” has probably come from Buddhist traditions thereby making Buddhist followers also devoted to Ayyappa.
  • Followers of each and every religion can visit Sabarimala, unlike other temples of Kerala, the only condition being that they should follow the prescribed spiritual practice before their visit. Nowhere else in the world we can see such a congregation of devotees belonging to each and every religion. The famous singer, Yesudas is a staunch devotee of Lord Ayyappa.
  • Devotees from all over India and the world throng the temple during the festival period displaying highest levels of harmony between people belonging to different religion, caste, creed, region, language, colour, etc.

In this era when mistrust between people belonging to different country and religion is at its highest level, wars are fought on religion, the most comforting feeling you get when you see millions of devotees waiting patiently (at times for more than 15 hours) to get a glimpse of the lord is extremely satisfying and comforting. We must practice such discipline, tolerance and harmony in our day to day life to insure a better life for the entire humanity today and forever.