Sep 18: Vamana Avatar & The Ganges

18 Sep

The Nama Sankirtan was led by Sankarji from California.

Generally the full-moon and half-moon days are considered very auspicious. On these days, the moon has a direct influence on the mind. It is said that in the Vedas that in the colossal [virat] form of the Lord, the mind of the Lord is made up of moon. Only on these days, it is always considered to be very auspicious. The avatara [incarnation] of Mahans are on the full-moon and half-moon days. Chaitanya mahaprabhu’s Jayanthi is on a full-moon day. The great Acharya, Sri Chandrasekharendra Bharathi Swamigal Aradhana is on a full-moon ammavasya day. The birth date of our beloved Guru Maharaj Sri Muralidhara Swamiji is on an ammavasya day.

The eighteenth of September happens to be an Ammavasya day. It is indeed a special one as it is known as Mahalaya Amavasya. It falls in Dakshanaya [the direction of sun is inclined to the south]. Amavasya is very sacred for the ancestors in the pitru Loka. Following this, is Navaratiri [nine day festival]. There are two Navaratris, Vasantha and Sharadha Navarathiri. Vasantha Navarathiri is in the spring season. Sharadha Navarathri is celebrated during the Autumn/Fall season. In Sharadha Navarathiri, the Divine Mother is worshipped in many different ways for nine days. It is celebrated as Golu in the southern part of India. In the north-eastern part of India, especially in West Bengal, the Mahalya Amavasya is celebrated in a very grand manner. The Durga deity is made with specific type of sand from a specific location in the banks of river Ganges.  It is on this Mahalya Amavasya day that the eyes of the deity are carved out. The whole energy of the deity is brought out only when the eyes are carved out. The ‘Netronilanam’ starts on the morning of the mahalya Amavasya day. The Durga pooja is celebrated for seven days and culminates on the Saptami [Durga Saptami] . They celebrate the Durga Pooja on the seventh day.

Followed by introductions, Narayananji from Boston beautifully talked about the significance of Vamana Avatar and the Ganges.

The lord in Vaikunta is called as Paravasudeva [Lord Narayana]. He is in a standing posture with Goddess Lakshmi on his side. In Srirangam, one can find the Lord in Paravasudeva form on the tower [vimana] of the temple. This is said to be the form of the lord in Vaikunta. But he is not accessible in this form. In order to make Himself accessible for a chosen few [devas], he comes to Kshiraabdi, [the milky ocean] which is verily the Lord’s in-laws place. It is said that he is in a sleeping posture and even there he is not very accessible. He only speaks through the language of silence. In Srimad Bhagavatam, when Lord Brahma goes to Kshirabdi to meet the lord, “ Giram Samadhu Gaganae sameeritam”. It is only through the language of Samadhi that they communicate.  In order to make Himself accessible to everyone, he took avatars and came into this world. He took innumerable avatars out of which Srimad Bhagavatam talks about twenty two avatars. The avatars of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna are known as complete [poorna] avatars.

Andal very beautifully shows these three forms of the Lord in her first three hymns. In her first hymn she says –

“Narayananae Nammakke Parai tharuvan”-  in which she refers to the Paravasudeva, the supreme being in Vaikunta. In her second hymn, she refers to the lord in Kshirabdhi (‘payyathuiyindra paraman adi paadi’), where, Lordess Lakshmi is always caressing His feet. This is called the Vyuha Avataram. In her third verse, she goes to show an incarnation [avatar]. It is a known fact that the lord took ten avatars. Srimad Bhagavatam elucidates twenty two avatars and also talks about the innumerable [asankhyeya] incarnations. So we ideally expect Andal to talk about Lord Rama or Lord Krishna in her third hymn. But she talks about the Lord who came down to the earth as Vamana Avatar and who grew up as Trivikrama Avatar!

“Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”
“Naangal nam paavaiku satru neeradinal”

Andal says, Oh Vamana!, the Lord who extended himself to measure the three worlds [lokas]. let me sing his Divine Name. If we ponder as to what prompted Andal to choose Vamana avatar out of all the avatars, Periyavavachanpillai gives a beautiful elucidation. It is in this Vamana avatar that the qualities of a true Brahmin are expounded. A Brahmin should have a ‘mounji’, ‘mekala’, ‘dandam’ and should wear a ‘kaupeenam’. A Brahmin’s roopa-lakshanas are mentioned in this avatar and this why Andal says “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

In addition to this, the activities of a true Brahmin are clearly brought to light in this avatar. The six-fold activities of a Brahmin are mentioned in the Shastras. Of them, the act of taking Biksha is beautifully described in this avatar and so Andal sings – “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

The Vamana Avatar talks about the Guna lakshanas [the qualities of a Brahmin]. The first quality of a Brahmin is contentment. He should be satisfied with what he has. If he is not, then he will never be satisfied even if all the three worlds come to his feet. Bhagawan Vamana very lucidly conveys this message in Srimad Bhagvatam in Vamana Avatar. Satisfaction is important just not for a Brahmin but for everyone in this world. Hence Andal glorifies this avatar and sings, “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

Then comes the qualities of a king. A warrior [kshatriya] should possess three glorious qualities. He should be one who respects and celebrates brahmanas [brahmanya], should be truthful [sathyasanda] and should be a great charity giver [‘vadaanya’ – even ready to give his life]. The Vamana avatar brought to light these qualities of King Bali and hence Andal sings “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

The Vamana avatar also glorifies the significance of Guru. No matter what the circumstances may be, the guru should always show the Lord. When Vamana comes to the court of King Bali, Bali  promised to Vamana that he would offer anything that Vamana asked. Then his Guru Sukracharya called Bali, “Oh Bali! Don’t get fooled by him. ‘Maya Manava Ko Harih’. This is a magician who is verily Lord Hari. This great fact about the Guru’s lakshana is shown in Vamana Avatar and hence Andal says “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

Anybody who wears a sacred thread cannot be called as a Brahmin. When Vamana entered the courtyard of King Bali, everybody implicitly stood up and prostrated to the little child. The lustrous divinity emanating from his little countenance awed everyone and made them salute him. This is merely because of the tejas of Vamana and to show that brahma tejas is the important asset of a Brahmana. Bhagawan descended to the earth as Vamana to show this very fact, and hence Andal sings “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

A Guru’s word will never go falsified. Bali’s Guru, Shukracharya, discouraged Bali from performing the act of charity by hinting that the guest was no ordinary boy. But despite this, Bali consented to honor the request. Shukracharya became angry and cursed Bali. “Oh Bali, you didn’t adhere to my words and hence you will lose all your wealth”. And that indeed became true. To show that a guru’s word cannot become erroneous, bhagawan took the avatar of Lord Vamana and hence Andal hails “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

Being a demon, one should ideally expect King Bali to possess all the demonic qualities. But in contrary he has immense bhakti for the Lord. To prove his devout nature, he adhered to bhagawan’s request for the three foot of land. To show the bhakti of Bali, Bhagawan incarnated as Lord Vamana. Vindyavali, the wife of King Bali was also a very pious woman. She was extremely devoted to her husband, Bali. Inspite of Sukracharya’s overwhelming words, she was ready with a pot [kamandalu] of water to give the three foot of land to Vamana. It is said the “Vindyavali patni jaalakamaalini” To lucidly show the devoutness of King Bali and Vindyavali’s respect for her husband, the lord took the avatar of Vamana and hence Andal glorifies this avatar and sings “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

Bali was a great learner. He learnt a great lesson from his great grandfather. At the instant of time, when the lord cornered Bali and said “Oh Bali! Now give me the third foot of the land, he was not foolish unlike his great-grandpa, Hiranyakashipu, who did not give up till the last moment even though he was at the brink of defeat and died a gory death in the presence of  Lord Narasimha. Bali learnt from this incident and he stopped beyond a point when he clearly knew that he was not going to win anymore. He calls to his assistants “hey Viprachitae! hey Rahu! Hey Neme! Please stop fighting. We are at a point where we are subdued. There is no point fighting. This great management precept is shown by Bali in Vamana avatar and hence sings “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

Bhagawan Yogi Ramsurathkumar would say, “I don’t want your possessions. I only want the possessor”. The surrender is not surrendering your wealth and other worldly possessions, but the surrender of the Self. That wonderful golden thought was brought forth in Vamana avatar and hence Andas says “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

When Bali fell at the holy feet of the Bhagawan, Bhagawan says “Oh Bali! When I first want to take a soul [jiva] unto me, the first thing I do is to appropriate his wealth. This is the first sign that I am going to shower the grace on him”. This great truth was revealed to us in Vamana Avatar and hence Andal sings “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

The moment we surrender unto the Lord, the lord surrenders unto us. When King Bali surrendered to the Lord, the Lord told him that he would be his guard in the “Patalaloka” until the Saavarani Manmantra is completed. The Lord takes you onto his fold just for the sake of the fact that the fore-fathers have done Bhakti to the Lord. Just for the sake of Prahalada who was an ardent devotee of the lord, the lord took Bali unto his feet. If our fore-fathers have done Bhakti, then it is only because of the good merits accrued by them that we are blessed with satsang today. To bring this remembrance, the lord took the Vamana avatar and Andal sings “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

Above all there is a great quality that is shown by this avatar and not seen in any other avatar. If Bhagawan had decided otherwise, he could have killed King Bali. He wanted to correct him rather than slaughter him. Bali was stripped of ego and Bhagawan took him to His feet. It is certainly not the quality of Bhagwan. We only see killing in Lord Rama and Lord Krishna’s incarnations. It is only a guru who can take a disciple to the holy feet of the Lord. Vamana Avatar shows this great quality of a guru and hence Andal sings “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”

Madhurakavi Azhwar sings the following verse when he talks about a guru.

“Payanandragilum paangalar agilum seyal nandraga thiruthi panikolvan”

In which he says “I am of no use to my guru. It is out of his sheer compassion that he takes me unto the holy feet of the Lord by correcting my wrong-doings and puts me unto the eternal service of Bhagawan”.  Such is the glory of a Guru. In this context, Vamana comes  in the guise of a guru and corrects  King Bali and absolves his mistakes and throws him to the holy feet of the Lord. No wonder Andal sings “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi” as it is verily in this Avatar that this wonderful precept of guru is shown.

Beyond all these concepts, we have one tangible benefit out of this Avatara.  We commit so many sins on a daily basis. There is a great thing that we have where we can wash away all our sins. But for Vamana avatar we would not have had this. It is verily the river Ganges. That is why Andal says “Ongi ulagalandha uttaman perpadi”. It is necessary to take bath in Ganges? Azhwar beautifully replies to this question “Gangai gangai endra vasagathalae”

By merely uttering the word Ganga, all our sins gets washed away. Such is the glory of river Ganga. Adi Shankara very beautifully sings an octet [ashtakam] on Mother Ganga. In one of the verses he sings how Mother Ganges was born and sings her history. Srimad Bhagavatham talks about the birth and history of Ganges in various places.

AdiShankara says “
Adavadi pithamahasya niyama vyapara patrejanam
Taschat pannaga shaayinah bhagavathah padokanam paavanam
Bhuya shambujataa vibushana mani janho maharishaeriyam
kanya kalmasha haarini bhagavatii bhageerathi paadumam”

When Bhagawan took the form of Trivikrama and started to measure the three worlds, his first foot reached Sathyaloka. The moment his foot touched sathyaloka, Lord Brahma saw the thumb finger of the left feet and he started to wash the lord’s feet with a pot [kamadalu] of water. [ niyama vyapara patre ]

“Padanaka  neera janita jana pavana keshava druta vamana roopa” Sings Jayaadeva in his Ashtapadi. Lord Brahma started to wash the feet of the Lord and that water which started to wash the nails of the Lord’s left thumb finger became Ganges. But this Ganges was not prepared to come to earth. She was in Brahmalokha and there she was called as Vishnupadi since she washed the feet of Lord Vishnu himself. Later she started to flow to the Maharlokha, the dwelling place for Lord Dhruva. Lord Dhruva was a great Bhagavata. It is said that Lord Dhruva used to take bath in Ganges three times a day since it was his master’s water. Mother ganga then started to flow into the Saptrishi mandala [the abode of the seven rishis] who have all done immense tapas [penance]. So Ganges goes and washes their tufts [hair].

Ganges then goes to Swarga which is the holy abode of the Indra, Devas and the Devathas. They don’t have any dirt in them and so Ganges remains there and she flows in Swarga as Mandakini river.

In Surya Vamsa, there was a king called Sagara Chakravarti. In this lineage was Harishchandra, his son was Rohita and in the same lineage was a king by name Champa. Sagara did many Ashwamedha yagas and the moment he started to perform Ashwamedha Yaga, Lord Indra  couldn’t take it and immediately started to trouble him. He took Sagara’s horse and hid it all the way in the Pathala loka where Lord Kapila Vasudeva was meditating. Sagara had sixty thousand sons and he sent all of them in different directions in search of his horse so that he could finish his Ashwamedha yaga. So the sons dig a hole on the underground and they find Kapilavasudeva meditating with the horse tied near to him. On seeing this site, they thought that it was he who had taken his horse and decided to kill him. Kapila Vasudeva is none other than the Lord himself. The very anger that made them rush to KapilaVasudeva burned them right there and all the sons died instantly at KapilaVasudeva’s ashram. The Ashwamedha yaga was not completed. Sagara’s son was Asamanjan. He was not a very smart kid. He was blessed with a son and he was Amshuman.  He was a prodigy by birth. He owed to complete the Ashwamedha Yaga of his grandfather. He went to the patalalokha and prostrated to Kapilavasudeva, who said that it was Lord Indra who had hid the horse there. He gave back the horse and Amshuman successfully completed the Ashwamedha yaga. However, his sixty thousand uncles did not reach the proper lokas since they were burned in the fire [agni].  Kapilavasudeva adviced Amsuhman to sprinkle the Ganges water on his sixty thousand uncles and then they will be liberated. Amsuhman tried his level-best to bring the Ganges down, but was not successful. Lineages passed by and then finally it was Dilipa’s lineage. His son was Bhageeratha and he resolved to liberate his fore-fathers. He did penance to Lord Brahma for thousands of years and then finally Lord Brahma appeared in front of him. He requested Lord Brahma to have Ganges to flow down to the Earth. Ganges however did not want to come down to the earth as it is filled with so much of dirt and people in the earth have committed so many sins. Bhageeratha pleaded to Ganges that earth is blessed with Bhagavatas who are always immersed in the Divine Name chanting of the Lord and also told her that they will take bath in the Ganges. The moment she heard this, she decided to come to earth and she started to flow and was unable to control her force. Upon hearing this, Bhageeratha started to do penance on Lord Shiva and then Lord shiva came to help. Shiva told him that he is also a Bhagavatha and that he can take Ganges on to his head. He left a drop of Ganges on the earth and he took the remaining unto his head.

In Bhadrinath and Kedarnath, Ganges is called Alakananda and she is called as Ganga in Haridwar. Since Bhagiratha was the one who brought the Ganges down to the earth, river Ganges comes down as his daughter, Bhagirathi. She was a very mischievous girl. She once entered the ashram of a sage by name Janhu and started to play pranks at his abode. This angered him and he drank the Ganges. Bhagiratha found out that river Ganges was not flowing out anymore and realized that Janhu Maharishi drank the Ganges and pleaded with him to give back Ganges and told him that it was only with Ganges that he can liberate his fore-fathers. Hearing this, Janhu released a drop of water from his ears. Since Ganges is now a daughter of Janhu, she is also called as Janhavi. A mature and tame lady she came along with Bhagiratha and liberated all his fore-fathers. Such is the glory of Ganges and till date she has been purifying the souls not by a bath but my merely thinking of her and chanting her name “Ganga”.

It is very auspicious indeed to reminisce about Ganga on the holy day of Mahalaya Amavasya. We liberate all our ancestors by merely thinking of Ganga on Mahalya Amavasya day.

Azhwar says  “Gangaium Punidhamaya kaveri naduvu pattu pongum neer paranthu payum  poompozhil arangam thannul engal maal iraivan eesan kidandador kidangai  kandu enganam marandu vazhven ezhaiyen ezhaeyanae”

Not only is river Ganga pure and pristine but also the river Cauvery is indeed one of the greatest rivers. Cauvery, Tamraparni and Kritamala brought forth lot of mahans who have shown the path of Bhagavatha Dharma.

The satsang ended with prayers with Namasankirtan.

One Response to “Sep 18: Vamana Avatar & The Ganges”

  1. Yamuna V October 16, 2009 at 5:52 pm #

    Namashkar, I came upon this blog when I was doing a google search for Thiruppavai classes in the Bay Area (San Jose,CA). I read the posts, especially the one on Guru Mahima, and was really touched. Would you please tell me where the nama sankeertan occurs and if it is open to all? I’d love to be able to join.


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