Saturday, February 9, 2008


Gayatri is the most suitable one for the title ‘mahamantra’. What is Gayatri mahamantra ? Who is Gayatri Mata ? What symbology does Gayatri represent ? I am trying to explain it here.
Gayatri Mahamantra
Gayatri verily means ‘which saves the singer’- (‘gAyantam trAyate yasmAd gAyatri iti abhideeyate’) .
What is a mantra ? – It is that which protects its chanter- (‘mananAt trayate iti mantra’).
Gayatri initiation is said to be the most significant event in a brahmin’s life. The upanayana is the event that catapults the ordinary boy into a Brahmin. There is a sloka ,’ By birth all are sudras. By only samskAra he comes to be called a twice born’ ( jananAt jAyate sudra:, samskArAt dwija uchyate’). Upanayana and Gayatri diksha form the samskara that the boy gets.
If the Gaytri is such a weapon that gives the Brahmin his very identity, what makes it so special ?
Gayatri- the crest jewel of the Vedas
Gayatri is called the Veda Mata. Krishna says in the Gita ‘ Of all the mantras, I am the Gayatri’ (gAyatri chandasAm aham). Let us see the mantra now

Om Bhurbhuva: sva: |
tatsaviturvarenyam |
bhargo devasya dheemahi |
dhiyo yo na: prachodayAt ||

For those who want to hear the mantra chanted as per the tradition, hear this

The word to word meaning of the mantra
(bhu :)- the earth; (bhuva :)- the intermediate space ; (sva:)- the heaven; (dheemahi)- we meditate(on) ; (tat)- that ; (varenyam)- the adorable; (bharga:)- effulgence; ( savitur devasya)- of the Sun Lord; (ya:)- who ; (prachodayAt)- enlightens; (na:)- our ; (diya)- intellect.
Sloka meaning:
Om. We meditate on the glory of the effulgent Sun Lord who enlightens our intellect.
On the first sight , it seems a prayer for knowledge. But what does it have in its structure or meaning to qualify for the status of a ‘maha mantra’ ? Let us see.
When one first analyses the structure of the sloka one can see
1. that it has five parts.
1. Om 2. bhurbhuva: sva; 3. tatsaviturvarenyam 4. bhargo devasya dheemahi 5.dhiyoyona: prachodayAt
2. bhu bhuva : sva: - The three worlds, also called vyahrutis. Bhur loka is the gross earth. sva loka is the very heaven. The bhuva loka is the intermediate space also called as antariksha.But our Upanishads declare that these worlds are in fact the gross, subtle and causal worlds. Stoola, Sookshma and kArana . The Taitreeya Upanishad gives a very detailed explanation of the vyahrutis. Another stunning discovery of our Rishis is that these represent the very gross, subtle and causal bodies that a person has.
3. tat savitur varenyam- ( the adorable Sun Lord) this is the in praise (of the Lord). ‘Praise’ is the essence of the Rig Veda.
4. bhargo devasya dheemahi- ( we meditate on the Lord’s effulgence) ‘Meditate’ is the essence of Yajur Veda.
5. dhiyo yo na: prachodayAt- ( who enlightens our intellects)- this is the ‘prayer’ part and is the essence of Sama Veda.
2. It starts with Om – the primordial sound of the universe. There is a declaration ( I do not have the source) that the Trimurthis of Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva are within the Gayatri and Gayatri is within the primordial sound of ‘Om’. How ? The answer is in the pranayama mantra of Sandhya Vandana, which is called the extended Gayatri,
om bhu: om bhuva: om sva: om maha: om jana: om tapa: om satyam
om tatsaviturvarenyam bhargo devasya dheemahi dhiyoyona: prachodayAt
om Apo jyoti rasomrutam brahma bhurbhuvassuvarom ||
Om (is the whole containing) the seven vyahrutis . Bhu :, bhuva:, sva:. Maha:,jana:, tapa:, satyam.
Om is the essence of the mantra of tatsaviturvarenyam. bhargo devasya dheemahi, dhiyoyona: prachodayAt.
Om is water, the divine rasa, the nectar, the Brahman itself. Om is bhu: bhuva: suva:.
In short, Om contains everything. It is the seed of creation.
Symbolism of Gayatri
A picture of Gayatri is made based on a sloka from ‘Sarada Tilakam’. Based on this sloka, many pictures of Gayatri as a Goddess Mata were drawn and are available. One picture which remains close to the sloka is given here. Below it the sloka and the meaning is given.

This is the sloka in ‘Sarada Tilakam’, describing the Gayatri mata which is also the dhyana sloka for invoking Gayatri before starting japa during Sandhya Vandanam.
“ muktA vidruma hema neela davalachhAyai, mukhais tree kshanai,
yuktAm indu kalA nibaddha makutAm, tatvArtha varnAtmikam,
gAyatri vardAbhayAngusa kasAs, subram kapAlam ,gadAm,
sankam chakram atharavinda yugalam, hastair vahanteem bhaje"
meaning of the above sloka:-
I sing in praise of Gayatri who has five faces of the colours of pearl, sapphire, gold, blue and white, who has three eyes,who has the crescent moon in Her crown, who is of the form of the (twenty four) letters decribing the tattva, who shows Varada and Abhaya mudra in two hands, and holds the Ankush, Whip, the white Skull, the Gada, the conch, the chakra and the Lotus ( in the other eight hands) - compare this with the image above
Gayatri mata
No doubt, this picture is the symbolic of the sloka and a definite superimposition , which evolved much later. But what is the esoteric meaning of the sloka when viewed in connection with the Gayatri mantra ? Let me try to put togther a coherent picture.
  1. The five faces of Gayatri- the five parts of Gayatri mantra
  2. The crescent moon on the crown, the three eyes, and the skull are symbolic of Shiva- the destroyer
  3. The conch, chakra, gadha , the abhaya mudra denote Vishnu the protector
  4. The Lotus seat is symbolic of Brahma- the creator
  5. The whip , and ankush symbolize Kali, the Sakthi.
In short, Gayatri is symbolized as Sarva devata swarupa.
(For a confirmed brahmachari, however, this above Saguna form of Dhyana is not advised. Only for the Grahasta,the family man, this image of the Gayatri mata for Dharana (focus) is permitted. The celibate should chant Gaytri visualizing it as a light (tejas).
The above will show how this symbolism arrives at the statement that “ Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are within the Gayatri”.
To summarize,
  1. Gayatri denotes the essence of the three Vedas- Hence She is the Veda Mata
  2. Gayatri is the extension of the primordial sound Om
  3. Gayatri embodies the trimurtis of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva
  4. Gayatri denotes the subjects as plural, hence even if an individual chants it, the benefits are for Humanity
  5. Gayatri has twenty four letters denoting the twenty four principles
What does one gain by Chanting gayatri ?
Gayatri, if chanted knowing the meaning and with correct pronounciation, can take the Sadhak on a trajectory of spiritual growth away from the self defeating materialistic tendencies. It is always best to take a diksha from a Guru for such a holy undertaking . Gayatri Parivar, an organization based in hardwar, which was founded by Sri Sriram Acharya , is engaged in the great activity of spreading Gayatri to all.

Who Can Chant gayatri ?Gayatri is a universal symbol. It is for every human being. With the varna system gone, it is the duty of every Hindu to keep the divine tradition of Gayatri Japa which is the gateway to the highest spiritual heights. Gayatri is best chanted with pranayama in the morning during sunrise and in the evening during sunset and with an empty stomach. The sandhya vandanam routine is the best for Gayatri Japa since it obeys many injunctions like paying obeisances to various rishis to whom the mantras were revealed. Sandhya vandanam is also best since there are other preparatory kriyas like Achamanam.

I believe you enjoyed this post. There are many many good sites on Gayatri on the net, but still I have tried to fill in some gaps in the available vast resource.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


The secrets behind Chidambaram Nataraja Temple

When I visited Chidambaram Temple as a boy of twelve during a school tour , my teacher told me about Chidambara Rahasyam (secret of Chidambaram). Who will not be fascinated by that dancing Lord, Nataraja ? Since then, I have read many articles about this Secret . Each referred to one but no two was the same. I always thought that there must be a bigger secret than all I have heard.

Recently, I read something which took me nearer the truth in this pursuit of this secret of secrets. As usual, I am sharing here all that I learned upto now . Most of the statements are in numbered format and given as short as possible.


Lord Shiva dances here in Chidambaram. Before we speak of the Dance , we will explore the stage that is Chidambaram.

A temple is called ‘Kovil’ in Tamil. It literally means( Ko- il) the abode of the Lord. Whenever the mere name ‘kovil’ is mentioned, it specially means Chidambaram which is split as Chit( gnana or wisdom) + Ambaram ( akasa or space) .

Structure of a typical Siva Temple

A classical Siva temple as per Agama rules will have five prakaras or circuits each separated by walls one within the other. The outer prakaras will be open to the sky except the innermost one. The innermost one will house the main deity as well as other deities. There will be a massive wooden or stone flag post exactly in line with the main deity.

The innermost prakara houses the sanctum sanctorum ( karuvarai in Tamil). In it sits Shiva, the supreme Lord.

Symbolism behind the structure of a Shiva Temple

1. The temple is so constructed as to resemble the human body with all its subtleties.

2. The five walls encircling one another are the kosas ( sheaths) of human existence .

a. The outermost is the Annamaya kosa , symbolizing the material body.

b. The second is Pranamaya kosa , symbolizing the sheath of vital force or prana.

c. The third is Manomaya kosa, symbolizing the sheath of the thoughts, the mana

d. The fouth is the Vignyana maya kosa, symbolizing, the sheath of the intellect

e. The fifth and innermost is the Ananda maya kosa, symbolizing the sheath of Bliss.

3. The sanctum which is in the prakara symbolizing the Ananda Maya Kosa sheath ,

houses the lord, seated as the Jiva within us. It is to be noted that the sanctum is an

unlit space, just as if within the heart closed on all sides.

4. The entry Gopuras are likened to the feet, as resembling a person who is lying on the

back with the toe up.

5. The flag post depicts the sushumna nadi which raises from the Mooladhar (base of the

spine ) to the sahasrar ( vertex in the head).

6. Some temples will have three prakarams. There they represent the stoola, sukshma

and karana sareeras (bodies) of a human being Some temples have only one and they

represent all the five.

Chidambaram temple and its symbolism:

Saint Thirumoolar, whose legend is intricately woven with Chidambaram, says in his thirumanthiram


மானுடராக்கை வடிவு சிவலிங்கம்
மானுடராக்கை வடிவு சிதம்பரம்
மானுடராக்கை வடிவு சதாசிவம்
மானுடராக்கை வடிவு திருக்கூத்தே

transliterated into English, it reads

mAnudarAkkai vadivu sivalingam

mAnudarAkkai vadivu chidambaram

mAnudarAkkai vadivu sadAsivam

mAnudarAkkai vadivu thirukkoothe

Meaning: “Sivalingam is of the form of the human body; So is Chidambaram ; So is Sadasivam ; And so is his divine dance”.

  1. The temple has the above five prakaras resembling the sheaths.
  2. Nataraja gives dharshan from the sanctum called Chit Sabha with a golden roof.
  3. The roof has 26,000 golden tiles (see picture), denoting the number of breaths of a person in a day.

  1. These tiles are fixed to the wooden roof with the help of 72,000 nails depicting the number of nadis (the invisible ducts carrying energy to various parts of the body)
  2. As the heart is to the left of the body, the sanctum in Chidambaram is also aligned slightly leftward.
  3. On top of the Chit sabha roof, we find nine kalasas (made of copper) depicting the nine shaktis (powers)
  4. The roof has 64 cross wooden reapers denoting the 64 arts.
  5. The artha mandapa has six pillars denoting the six shastras
  6. The mantapa next to the artha mantapa has eighteen pillars symbolizing the eighteen puranas.
  7. There are five steps leading to the Chit sabha from the Kanaka sabha depicting the five lettered Panchakshara mantra ( Na ma chi vA ya)
  8. The Chit sabha roof is supported by four pillars symbolic of the four Vedas.

Symbolism of Nataraja Swamy

1. Nataraja’s dance is said to indicate the five divine acts which are

a. Creation . Nataraja dances with a small drum called damarukam in one of his
right hands. Easwra is nada brahmam. He is the origin of all sounds (nadam).This is
the seed (vindu) from which the tree of the Universe emanated.

b. Protection (Operation)- In another of the right hands, he shows the ‘Abhaya
Mudra’, meaning he is the kind protector .

c. Destruction; He has fire in one of his left hands , symbolizing destruction.
When everything is destroyed by fire, only the ash will remain which the Lord has
smeared on his body.

d. The foot which is planted shows the act of hiding

e. The raised foot shows the act of bestowing

  1. Nataraja swamy has the Vigraha ( icon) of Devi Sivakama Sundari to his left . This symbolizes Ardhanareeswara , ‘ the Lord who has the female as his left half’. To his right there is a screen. When the deeparadhana – showing lamps takes place to the swamy and to the left side , the screen is removed and we see five vertical long hangings of golden vilva leaves. We see nothing behind it. Sivakami shows the Saguna Brahman (the God with a form) that is Nataraja . The Saguna Brahman leads us to the Nirguna Brahman (the God without form or the God who has formlessness as his form). This is told as ‘Chidambara Rahasyam’ by the Dikshitars , who are the traditional pujaris in the temple.

  1. Shiva’s dance is called the cosmic dance by many scholars. In Chidambaram, this dance is called ‘Ananda Tandava’

  1. Lord Maha Vishnu also saw the Divine dance. In a nearby mantapa called Chitrakoota, Maha Vishnu, gives us dharshan in his fully reclining Yoga Nidra pose on the snake bed. If one stands on a small lotus sculpted on the floor slab in front of Narayana, one can at the same time see Nataraja in his right side.

  1. Sages Patanjali and Thirumoolar also saw Nataraja’s dance in Chidambaram. Their figures are embossed on the Silver doors of the Chit Sabha.

I think you enjoyed reading the above. Nataraja Rahasyam is said to have come to Tamilnadu from the Indus – Saraswati civilization. The Saiva Agamas, which teach tantric Saivism, reveal much more than the above. Next time you visit Chidambaram, remember all this, and worship Nataraja who will grant you release from the pains of the worldly life and show you the path of Gnana.

(The pictures have been collected from the net)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Symbolism behind worship of Lord Ganesha

Symbolism behind worship of Lord Ganesha
The most popular image when one thinks about Hinduism is Lord Ganesha, For we Hindus, Ganesha is the first and foremost deity to worship. This practice can be seen from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
What does the form of Ganesha symbolize ? Why do we worship Him?
In South India and especially in Tamilnadu, as a child I used to play around a big pipal tree, ( Aswatta in Sanskrit, Bodhi in Hindi, Arasa Maram in Tamil), under which there was a Ganesha icon. He sat on a raised stone pedestal. There were two vertical stones , one with two snakes intertwined with their heads meeting after two twists. The other stone had one cobra with its hood opened out.
In the mornings, many womenfolk in my area, after bathing , with their hair still not fully dry, carried water in a pot and perform abhishek ( pouring) of water on the deities, put a few grass on them, apply chandan and kumkum. They used to do a typical sit up with hands in opposite ears called ‘Thoppukkaranam’ , then they would tap the knuckles on either side of the temples gently five times and finally they will cicumambulate the whole tree with the pedestal three or five times and then offer a final prostration before the Lord. They will sit in front of Him for a minute murmuring slokas and will rush home.
I always wondered about the Ganesha’s form and the symbolism behind this typical worship. I found it only in my 44 th year. The profoundness of the entire rituals struck me forcefully. I also wondered at the wisdom of our Rishis and siddhas for making towering yogic knowledge expressed in simple worship. As usual, I am sharing it with you all.
1. The Snakes:
First we need to get basic regarding yoga and its outline.
Most of us know that our human body has many thousands of ( in fact 72,000) invisible ducts , called nadis, carrying energy to the entire body. Three of them are very important. They are ida , pingala and Sushumna which run along the spinal chord. The ida and pingala are the paths along which our prana (or life force) flows. They can be felt with slow rhythmic breathing with total inward focus. The Sushumna is the third which runs in the hollow of the spine. This starts at the root of the spine called ‘mooladhar’ and ends at ‘sahasrar’ the vertex.
It is said that the Kundalini shakti , likened to a cobra, is coiled up in the mooladhar chakra in a dormant form. Except for a few , the entire mankind has the kundalini in its dormant, unawakened state.
Only simple, pious, virtuous living with austerities, vegetarian diet, shunning of evil habits, dissociation from mad wealth mongering, and continuous practice of yoga in one of the known four paths of Gnana, Karma, Bhakti, Dhyana , awakens the kundalini and it starts to raise through the sushumna.
The sadhak has to pursue with his practice till the Kundalini starts ascending from
1. Mooladhara – base of spine
2. Swadhistana- corresponding to the position of genitals along spine
3. Manipooraka- opp to naval (solar plexus) along spine
4. Anahata- opp to heart (cardiac plexus) along spine
5. Vishuddhi- opp to neck along spine (here the spine ends)
6. Ajna- the point between the eyebrows(pituitary gland)
7. Sahasrar- the vertex (pineal gland)
The Kundalini at Sahasrar gives total awakening or self realization or Jeevan mukthi.
2. Snake icons
Coming back to the snake icons, the first icon has two snakes crossing each other in two places. The snake on the left is likened to ida, and the one on the right symbolizes pingala. They both originate at the feet, then cross once at Mooladhar, then again at Anahata and finally meet again at Ajna. This is the symbolism of the two intertwined snakes.
Now to the other stone slab with the cobra with opened out hood. This is the direct depiction of the Kundalini , which is said to be about three and a half feet in length. In its awakened state, it has raised through the Sushumna nadi and has reached the Sahasrar, the last chakra with a thousand petalled lotus. This symbolizes total illumination.
3. The Elephant face:
Now Lord Ganesha, shows us the way to illumination. How ? By his own form. His elephant face is in the form of Omkara, the primordial sound. By the help of the Omkara that is Pranava , the Sadhak is helped towards enlightenment.
4. The Mouse- Ganesha’s Vehicle:
Another curiosity is Lord Vinayaka’s vehicle, the mouse. This symbolizes an elephant riding on one of the smallest creatures, the mouse. This explains us how our human body came to be the vehicle for the infinite Atman.
5. The five Hands:
Ganesha’s left hand holds the ankush- which is used to punish errant elephants. Depicts how He guides humans.
Right hand holds Pasa- The rope that is used to tie the elephant- with which he ties the creation.
The third hand has the broken part of its tusk with which he wrote the entire Mahabharata- denotes knowledge and education.
The fourth Hand holds the japamala- the chain of beads- Shows us the necessity to chant God’s names.
In the fifth Hand, which is His trunk, Ganesha hold the Modhaka, a sweet delicacy made of pounded and boiled rice, jaggery and coconut scrapings- This denotes good food.
6. The third eye:
This denotes the Eternal Knowledge.
7. The Large ears
Shows how we should listen and absorb more and express and talk less. Ganesha is always attentive to our outpourings.
8. Pipal tree:
The Pipal tree is the most sacred of Trees of Hindu tradition. Sree Krishna says ‘ Aswatta: sarva VrukshanAm’- that of all the trees he is the Pipal tree. The Aswatta tree is said to hold enormous Aura around it which can heal many mental and Physical illnesses. Its aura also creates an ambience for a pious session of worship.
Tapping on the forehead
The typical gentle knocking on the forehead is for activating the chakras in the head. The Ajna and Sahasrara.
The typical sit up is called as Thoppukaranam in Tamil. " Thorbi karna" in sanskrit. (literally meaning hands on the ears). The sadhak holds the opposite year by the respective hands and sits with the feet fully flat and grounded. In my younger days , my school teachers used to make us do this as a punishment in school. But, this has proved to be a brain synchronizer as found out by American researchers who call it as super brain yoga. See the video

The first and foremost to be worshipped
Is it any wonder that Ganapathy, with Pranava as his Swarupa (form) is worshipped as the first and foremost deity ?
Vinayaka depicts Knowledge, Wisdom, Power, Enlightenment and Mukthi.
The next time you go to a Vinaya Temple, do stand in front of Him and recall all the above to understand Him in His very presence. He is the Lord of Siddhi( Powers) and Buddhi(reasoning). He wants you to know Him and worship Him for what he is.
Sri Maha Ganapathaye nama:
1. Kadavulin Vadivangal- Swamy Chidbhavananda( Tamil) Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam, Tirupparaithurai, T. Nadu, India(
2. Avvayar Aruliya Vinayagar Agavalum Kundalini Yogamum- N. Thampanna Chettiyar, (Tamil), Puthiya Puttaga Ulagam, Chennai, T. Nadu(