Saturday, August 04, 2007

July 2007 - Sapta Rishi Yagyas

During our Guru Poornima yagya series our Varanasi priests performed a series of special yagyas to the rishis who were the original seers of the Vedas. These rishis are known as the saptarishi (sapta=seven). As the mythology goes, they are the mind-borne sons of Brahma the creator. In addition we performed a yagya for Vyasa; the rishi who organized the Vedas into four "books"; Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva. So these individuals are in some ways the originators of the vedic tradition that we are all gaining so much benefit from. So it seems fitting to honor them at this time of year.

As is traditional each rishi is represented by his own kalasha pot, nicely decorated and arranged on the yantra that represents strength and power.

Special pujas are done for each rishi to bring their blessings and knowledge into our lives.

At the conclusion of the pujas, the kalashas look really nice!

The homa kund all ready for the fire yagya to begin.

The final offerings of ghee into the yagya fire.

Vyasa divided the Vedas into the 4 parts that we know today. He was also the author of many Puranas, and the Mahaabharata which includes the Bhagavad Gita. He is one of the eight individuals (Chiranjeevin) who have immortality and are supposedly still around somewhere even any case, he is certainly a great rishi!

He received a nice abishekam.

And pujas with final aarti (offering of light) as shown here.

The temple where the Vyasa abishekam took place included a wonderful Shiva temple with a huge lingam! Since Shiva, as Dakshinamurti is the original guru, he was honored as well.

An abishekam is like taking a nice cooling shower. With a lingam of this size it take a lot of water and two priests!

Afterwards the lingam is dressed in a fresh dhoti and beautiful flower garlands.

Looking down on the homa kund nicely decorated with colored rice flour.

The fire yagya underway with 7 priests chanting.

The yagya fire always seems to build to a fine conclusion. Notice the spectators in the background. Yagyas are always fun to watch and our priests tend to do them more elaborately than what is usually seen in a temple, so they tend to attract attention.

After the yagya fire is completed, they take the water that has been purified in the kalasha pots and offer it over the lingam using these special objects that were originally made from a cow's horn.

In this case it is made from brass and is being used to offer milk.

Note the way the tip has been shaped to look like a bull with curved horns; Shiva's vahana (mount) is the bull named Nandi.

The final aarti is offered along with the chanting of mantras.

The lovely deep greeen colors of the nearby rice paddys make for a peaceful setting!

Friday, August 03, 2007

July 2007 - Guru Poornima

July is always the month for Guru Poornima, the day when teachers in all forms are honored. In Kanchipuram, our priests traveled to a patasala (vedic school) a short distance outside of town. This school and temple were a favorite of the famous Shankaracharya. The temple is for Dakshinamurti, the form of Shiva as teacher.

Rain is a good omen on yagya day.

The abishekam begins with offerings of water.

Then turmeric is mixed with water and poured over the murti.

The contrast of the white milk looks nice against the black stone.

After the abishekam, the murti is decorated with beautiful malas and offerings of fresh fruit and coconuts.

Then the final offering of burning camphor is made...

...while everyone watches.

There is another form of the divine teacher called Dattatreya. Our Varanasi priests performed an yagya in a beautiful old temple.

Recitation at the beginning of the yagya...

A beautiful mandala made with colored rice flour.

Beautiful aarti...

And after the pujas, the yagya fire is constructed on the top of the mandala.

Note the temple priest observing the yagya proceedings as the fire gets larger.

Our mrytunjaya yagyas are very popular and there are lots of different temples in Varanasi to choose from.

Note the large copper lingam in the center as well as the traditional stone lingam with milk being home over it.

Very nice decorations (alankaram in Sanskrit).

The offering of light is also nice when it is a small ghee lamp.

Note the unusual triangle shaped homa kund!

The setting of a yagya on the banks of the Ganges is very beautiful especially under a tree which offers some shade and coolness.

June 2007 - Varanasi Yagyas

During June we sponsored a variety of yagyas in Varanasi. Here are a few photos from each...

The first series was for the different fierce forms of Shiva called the Bhairavas. Certainly in red, the fierceness is easy to see! When the murti is over 7 feet tall, that just adds to the effect.

After the abishekam and pujas, the priests moved out side to the courtyard where they performed homam (fire yagya).

In the shade of these beautiful trees it must have been a peaceful experience.

This is another form of Bhairava, the most active form of Shiva, although much smaller than the first one.

We decorate the temple with beautiful fresh garlands.

The homa kund (yagya fire pit) was extra large and beautifully decorated.

Final aarti; an offering of light to Agni; the yagya fire.

We also held a yagya for Durga who looks both beautiful and powerful in this temple.

Aarti after the pujas are completed.

And as always, after the yagyas, our priests performed homam; the fire yagya.

As the flames dance some people think you can see the goddess herself.

Of course we have to have Rudra Abishekam in one of the many temples in Varanasi with all the colorful traditional ingredients.

In many Varanasi temples the priests sit around the lingam instead of having it in an inner sanctum.

After the abishekam the lingam is beautifully decorated. The coconut is symbolic of the breaking of the hard shell of the ego which separates us from the divine.

The fire yagya takes place outside within sight of the Ganges River.

At the conclusion of the yagya it is natural to bow down and at that moment express your prayer.

A huge red Ganesha looking very friendly.

An unusual perspective on the fire yagya.

Note the beautiful flowers. It is rare to see blue flowers...presumably because they represent Saturn, although Ganesha is the best antidote to the restrictive effects of Saturn.

One of our long time participants sponsored a beautiful private yagya for Vishnu and Lakshmi in a wonderful temple with elegant columns.

Final aati, the offering of light at the end of the pujas.

And of course the event ends with a beautiful fire yagya.