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KING VASU AND SAGE RAIMYA UNITE WITH SRI HARI

Prithvi was anxious to know about the effect sage Vrihaspati's discources had on King Vasu as well as sage Raimya.She asked lord Varah-"What did both king Vasu and sage Raimya do after listening to the preachings of sage Vrihaspati?"
Lord Varah replied-"King Vasu was so impressed by Vrihaspati's discources that he decided to spend the rest of his life in the service of lord Narayan.He appointed Viwasman-his eldest son as his successor and left for Pushkar teerth.He engaged himself in austere penance by chanting pundarikaksha stotra.One day,while Vasu was chanting pundarikaksha stotra,he experienced an amazing incident-an entity whose complexion was blue, manifested from his body and stood with folded hands.In his bewilderment,king Vasu requested the stranger to introduce himself.
The entity narrated the following tale to him -
"O King,you were the ruler of Janasthan in your second previous birth.Once,while you had gone deep into the forest on a hunting spree,you were delighted to find a deer which in fact was none other but myself.In fact,I had disguised myself as a deer and was wandering in the forest.Being oblivious of this fact you had killed that dear.Later on,when you realized your mistake,you cursed yourself for having killed an innocent brahmin.To get absolved of this sin,you had observed a fast on Ekadashi and had donated a cow to please lord Narayan.But,inspite of all these austerities you did not attain liberation because at the time of your death you had chanted your wife's name whose name was Narayani instead of Narayan.This blunder of your's had stopped you from attaining to Vishnu loka for one complete kalpa.But,my revengeful soul continued to torture your soul till it was driven out by lord Narayan's escorts.It was only then that you were able to attain to Vishnu loka."
"In your next birth you were born as the king of Kashmir.I did not spare you even in that birth and possessed your body.You performed numerous yagyas to get rid of me but all your efforts went in vain as you had not chanted the holy name of lord Vishnu in any of the rituals that you had performed.But,now I was forced to abandon your body since you have been constantly chanting the sacrosanct pundarikaksha stotra.I have also become absolved of all my sin by the virtue of listening to the pundarikaksha stotra."
King Vasu expressed his gratitude to the entity for shedding light on his previous births.Suddenly,a divine aircraft descended from the heaven and king Vasu left for Vishnuloka mounted on it.Meanwhile,sage Raimya got the news of Vasu's ascension to heaven to Vishnuloka,he wanted to emulate the feat of his friend.He reached Gaya and performed shraddh in the name of his ancestors.He then engaged himself in an austere penance.Sanat kumar-one of the manasputras became very pleased by Raimya's penance and appeared before him.He complimented Raimya for liberating his ancestors by performing shraddh at Gaya.He then described the virtues of performing shraddh at Gaya and narrated the following tale -
"There lived a king named Vishal who had no son.One day,he invited few brahmins to his palace and asked them how he could beget a son.All the brahmins revealed to him that he did not have son because of the curse of his ancestors."You have not performed their shraddh so, they are angry with you and you can never beget a son unless you performed shraddh rituals at Gaya.Vishal went to Gaya as per the instruction of the brahmins.He performed the shraddh rituals and offered pinda-daan in the name of his ancestors.While he was still performing the rituals,he was amazed to see three men descending from the sky-one of them was of fair complexion while the remaining two were of wheatish and dark complexion respectively.Vishal curiously asked them as to who they were.The fair-complexioned person replied-
'I am your father-'sit'.The person with wheatish complexion is my father and the third person amongst us is my grandfather.My father had committed grave sins while he was alive and killing a brahmin was one the gravest sin he had committed.My grandfather was even worst than my father and his dark complexion is nothing as compared to his grave sins.He had killed numerous innocent sages for no fault of theirs.All three of us have come to express our gratitude as we have become liberated from our sins by the virtue of the shraddh rituals you have performed.The water which you had offered to us while performing the rituals have given us the ability to communicate with you,even though we are spirits.'
After finishing his tale,Sanat kumar told sage Raimya that Gaya was supreme among all the places of pilgrimage and the virtues of performing shraddh overthere is incomparable.Sage Raimya dedicated rest of his life to the worship of lord Gadadhar.At last,lord Gadadhar appeared before him.Sage Raimya requested the lord to give him a place in his abode which was dwelled by sages like Sanak and Sanandan.Lord Gadadhar blessed him by saying-'So be it.'This way,sage Raimya attained enlightenment with the blessings of the merciful lord Gadadhar and ultimately attained to the divine abode of lord Vishnu.

MATSYA AVATAR

Once,when lord Vishnu awakened from his yoga nidra,he found that the Vedas had submerged in the ocean as the result of pralaya(deluge).He incarnated as matsya(fish) to retrieve the Vedas from the ocean-bed.As soon as lord Matsya entered into the ocean,HE attained such an enormous size that the deities became frightened.
All the deities then eulogized lord Matsya and requested him to regain his original form- "O Narayan-the imperceivable lord.You manifest yourself in each and every particle of this Universe.You are omnipresent and exist even during the time of deluge when nothing else exist.O Lord!we are scared of your present form."
On seeing the deities frightened,lord Matsya retrieved the Vedas from the sea-bed and transformed his appearance from the huge fish to that of lord Vishnu.The deities were filled with joy to see the divine appearance of lord Vishnu.
KING DURJAY

During satya yuga,there lived a king named Suprateek.Although he had two queens,yet none of them bore any son to him.One day,Suprateek went to meet sage Durvasa,who had his hermitage at the foothills of chitrakut mountain and engaged himself in the sevice of Durvasa.The sage blessed the king and prophesised that he would become a proud father of a mighty son named Durjay.Durvasa's prophesy came true and Suprateek's eldest queen-Vidyutprabha gave birth to a son.The child was named Durjay.In course of time Durjay grew up to become a worthy successor of Suprateek.Suprateek decided to spend rest of his life in the service of God,so he went to Chitrakut mountain to do penance.
Mean while,Durjay being an ambitious king expanded his kingdom by subjugating all the neighbouring states.He conquered numerous mighty kingdoms and vanquished almost all the prominent warrior castes like- gandharvas,kinnars,demons and even the deities.Indra-the lord of the deities was defeated by Durjay and was forced to retreat towards east of Sumeru mountain alongwith the lokpals-various lords protecting different regions of the Universe.The whole world went into turmoil as the fallout of lokpal's power being snatched by Durjay.While Durjay was returning to his capital along with his victorious army,he met two asuras-Vidyut and Suvidyut, who had diguised themselves as sages.Both the impersonators requested Durjay to make some alternative arrangements so that the world could function smoothly.In reality,both of them harboured wishes of having the powers of lokpal's so they offered their services in this regard.Durjay,being unaware of their real identity agreed to appoint them as lokpal's and then proceeded towards his capital.While he was passing by the mandarachal mountain,he saw two beautiful women.Durjay was surprised to find them at such a deserted place.As he stood their wondering about their identity,he saw two hermits approaching him.Both the hermits asked Durjay-"Who are you? What is the purpose of your arrival?
Durjay introduced himself and told them that he was on his way to conquer the whole world.Now it was the turn of both the sages to introduce themselves-"We are the sons of Swayambhuva Manu-Hetu and Prachetu.We had successfully defeated the deities and driven them out from their abode-Sumeru mountain.All the deities went to seek the help of lord Vishnu and were successful in getting his assurance.Lord Vishnu then attacked us and vanquished our army but he spared our lives.Then onwards we became ardent devotees of the merciful lord Vishnu.
Hetu,then pointing towards one of the women said-"She is my daughter-Sukeshi.The other woman you see is my brother- Prachetu's daughter and her name is Mishrakeshi.Please accept both these beautiful as your wives."Durjay readily agreed to marry both of them as they were really very beautiful.He then returned to his capital.
Everything was going quite smoothly for Durjay,when on one fateful day he met his downfall because of his extreme greed.The incident happened as follows-Once,Durjay had gone into the forest on a hunting spree,where he met a sage named Gaurmukh.Gaurmukh had been blessed by lord Vishnu with a divine diamond named Chintamani which was capable of fulfilling all desires.Gaurmukh gave a royal treatment to Durjay with the help of wish-fulfilling diamond.He created an illusionary palace and offered variety delicacies to him as well as his whole army.
Durjay wanted to have chintamani diamond at any cost and therefore sent his minister-Virochan to persuade Gaurmukh to part with that diamond.Gaurmukh became furious after coming to know about the evil intention of Durjay and told Virochan to ask Durjay to leave at once.But,Gaurmukh knew quite well that the greedy Durjay would not give up so easily and would definitely try to acquire chintamani by force.So, he requested chintamani diamond to create a huge army.
Meanwhile,Durjay ordered his chief-commander,named Neel to bring chintamani at any cost.Neel proceeded with a large number of soldiers.A fierce battle took place between both the armies in which Neel was killed and his army got vanquished.Finally,Durjay himself came forward to fight but even he was defeated. In the meantime,Hetu and Prachetu got the news that their son-in-law was in trouble.Both of them proceeded with a huge army to help their so-in-law.But,they were no match for the might of their adversary and both of them eventually dieed in the ensuing battle.
Meanwhile,sage Gaurmukh found Durjay standing at the entrance of his hermitage with a small number of surviving soldiers.He sought the help of lord Vishnu,who appeared within no time.Gaurmukh requested him to punish Durjay for his evil intention.Lord Vishnu severed Durjay's head with his sudarshan chakra.The place where Durjay was killed later on became famous as Naimisharanya.Sage Gaurmukh continued to live at Naimisharanya without any problem.

SHRADDH RITUALS

PITRAS AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF 'SHRADDH

Once,sage Markandeya arrived at Naimisharanya to see sage Gaurmukh.Sage Gaurmukh was delighted to find such an enlightened soul at his hermitage.After the formalities were over, Gaurmukh requested him to shed light on the venerability of ancestors and the significance of shraddh rituals.
Sage Markandeya replied-"Lord Brahma,after having created the sapta rishis instructed them to worship him(Lord Brahma) but they became so arrogant that they started to worship themselves.Lord Brahma felt insulted and so he cursed them of becoming bereft of all the knowledge.In course of time,the sapta rishis had numerous sons.After the death of the sapta rishis,all the sons performed shraddh so that their souls could rest in peace.The sapta rishis were also famously known as 'Vaimanik'because they had manifested from the mind of Brahma."
Sage Gaurmukh was listening to Markandeya's utterances with rapt attention.He asked about the most appropriate time for performing shraddh and also about the number of 'ganas' each of the pitras were supposed to have.Sage Markandeya replied-"Pitras living in the heaven are known as 'somap pitras' are believed to be the most privileged ones among all the pitras.They enjoy the most delicious beverage-somaras.Their life-span extends for the full period of kalpa and they worship 'marutas'.Sage Marich belongs to this category of pitras."
Pitras belonging to the category of 'vairaj' are revered even by the marutganas.Sanak comes under this categoty of pitras.Each of these pitras have seven ganas.Similarly,pitras known as 'bhaswar' have their abode in the world called 'santanak'.These pitras are revered even by the deities as all of them are 'brahma vadis'(one who has realized Brahma).They remanifest themselves after every hundred yugas. People belonging to any caste can worship the revered 'pitras' with an appropriately modified rituals and obviously with the permission of the brahmin.Some of the prominent pitras are 'Vasu','Kashyap','Marichi' 'Sanak' etc.

THE APPROPRIATE TIME FOR PERFORMING SHRADDH

Describing the auspicious time for performing the rituals of shraddh,Markandeya told Gurumukh-"A person desirous of performing the rituals of 'kamya shraddh' can do so on any of the following days-a) at the commencement of uttarayan or dakshinayan. b)at the time when vyatipat yoga takes place. c) at the time when vishu yoga occurs. d) during both solar and lunar eclipses. e) if troubled by the evil influences of a constellation or a planet. f) if troubled by nightmares. g)at the time when the Sun changes it's position from one zodiac to another.
The various nakshatras like Anuradha,Vishakha and Shwati are considered to be very auspicious for performing shraddh- especially, if the day happens to be amavasya.Shraddh performed on such a day pacifies the ancestor's soul for eight years.Similarly the combination of amavasya with either 'pushya nakshatra' or 'punarvasu nakshatra' is believed to pacify the ancstor's soul for twelve years.Some other days which are considered to be very auspicious for performing shraddh are-the third day of the bright half of the hindu month Vaishakh,the nineth day of the bright half of the hindu month Kartik,the thirteenth day of the dark half of the hindu month Bhadrapad and amavasya falling in the hindu month of Magh.A man desirous of performing shraddh can do so on any of the above mentioned days.He should take bath in a holy river and offer 'tarpan'(libation) to his ancestors.

SHRADDH KALPA

Describing the types of brahmin,considered to be elligible to preside over the rituals of shraddh, Markandeya told sage Gaurmukh-"The following types of brahmin are elligible to perform shraddh-'trinachiket' 'trimadhu' 'trisuparna' and the brahmins who are well versed in all the Vedas.The shraddh rituals can be performed by any of the following relatives of the deceased, apart from his son-maternal nephew, grandson(daughter's son),father-in-law,son-in-law,maternal uncle,etc.
Similarly,the following types of brahmin should never be invited at the shraddh at the shraddh ceremony-a deceitful or a wicked brahmin,a brahmin who is a habitual backbiter or who is accused of theft,a brahmin who has married a shudra woman and a brahmin who earns his livelihood by working as a priest.

HOW TO INVITE BRAHMINS TO SHRADDH CEREMONY

Invitation should be given to the all the brahmins one day in advance.If uivited brahmins arrive to attend the shraddh ceremonythey should be treated with due respect.The brahmin who is supposed to perform the rituals should wash the feet of other brahmins to show his respect towards them.He should then help them perform 'achaman'(rinsing of mouth).Finally,the invited brahmins should be fed after the rituals have been completed.

NUMBER OF BRAHMINS

As far as the number of invited brahmins to the shraddh ceremony of the ancestors is concerned,the scriptures have strictly put it to odd numbers-one,three,five,etc.Similarly,the number of invited brahmins for the shraddh of the deities is concerned the number has been put to even number-two,four,etc. But,if the person finds it difficult to invite the above number of brahmins then he can invite only one brahmin for both the types of shraddh.While performing the shraddh of maternal grandfather it is mandatory to perform the shraddh of Vaishyadeva simultaneously.In the shraddh ceremony related with the deities the brahmins should always have their food facing east.On the contrary,in the shraddh ceremony of the ancestors the brahmins should have their food facing north.

TYPES OF SHRADDH

A person performing the shraddh rituals should have his seat made of 'kusha' grass.After taking his seat,he should invoke the deities and make offerings of 'ardhya' to them.While offering 'ardhya' to the deities water and barley are commonly used alongwith other articles like sandalwood,incense,etc.During the entire course of shraddh rituals 'yagyopavit'(sacred thread) should be worn in an inverse position-across the right shoulder and not across the left shoulder as it is normally worn.While performing the shraddh of ancestors offerings of articles like sesame seeds,water and kusha grass are normally made.

SHRADDH MANTRA

It is customary to scatter sesame seeds near the place where brahmins are having food in the shraddh ceremony.The performer of the shraddh rituals should imagine that the food partaken by them are actually satiating the ancestors.The chanting of 'Rakshodhna mantra' is a must.

THE RITUALS OF PINDA DAAN

One important characteristic of the rituals connected with pinda daan is the offerings made to manes in the form of sesame seeds and water.Another important aspect is that 'pinda' is offered on the 'kusha' grass which are kept facing south-first in the name of one's dead father and then in the name of one's grandfather and other ancestors.

BALIVAISHVA DEVA

The performance of Balivaishva deva rituals mark the end of shraddh ceremony after which the person should sit down along with all the invited guests to have his food.Ancestors become satisfied if shraddh is performed in their names and all the desires of such a man are fulfilled.Three things have great importance in shraddh rituals-black sesame seeds,the auspicious muhurta named 'Kutup' and grandson(daughter's son).Donating silver is considered to be extremely auspicious.A person performing the shraddh rituals should not venture out of his house till the completion of the entire ceremony.

THE MANIFESTATION OF VARIOUS DEITIES
During tretayuga,there lived a king named Prajapal.Once,while he was on his hunting spree,he entered into a dense forest.He was delighted to see a dear who started running for it's life after hearing the noise. Prajapal let his horse loose in the direction of the running dear.Sage Mahatapa had his hermitage in that forest.While chasing that dear,Prajapal arrived at the hermitage of Mahatapa.Being curious,he entered the hermitage and saw sage Mahatapa.The sage treated his guest with all the respect and offered him fruits to eat.After the formalities were over,Prajapal requested Mahatapa to describe the appropriate way of contemplating on the various forms of lord Narayan which gave salvation to a man. Sage Mahatapa replied-"The Vedas proclaim that all the deities owe their existence to lord Vishnu-Agni,Ashwini kumar,Gauri,Gajanan,Sheshnag,Kartikeya,Aditya Ganas,Durga,all the 64 matrikas,Kuber, Vayu, Yama, Rudra,Chandrama,Pitra Ganas,etc.have originated from lord Sri Hari.All the deities,although appearing to to have distinct identity,are in fact inseparable from lord Vishnu."

AGNI

"When Agni manifested himself from Brahma's anger,he requested him(Brahma) to assign an auspicious day to him for his worship.Lord Brahma said-'Since you have manifested first of all the deities,therefore the first day(pratipada) will be reserved for your worship.One who performs havan on pratipada would be blessed."

ASHWINI KUMARS

King Prajapal requested Mahatapa to describe how both the Ashwini kumars manifested themselves.Sage Mahatapa narrated the following tale-'Marichi was Lord Brahma's son while Kashyap was Marichi's son.All the twelve Adityas are the sons of sage Kashyap.One of the Adityas-Martand,was marrird to Vishwakarma's daughter whose name was Sangya.Martand had two children from her and their names were-Yama and Yami.Being unable to bear the extreme radiance of Martand,Sangya created her shadow identity and after instructing her to serve her husband(Martand) in best possible ways,she herself went to live at Uttarkuru.Later on,when Martand came to know about the reality,he went to Uttarkuru and found Sangya in the form of a mare.He then changed his own form and became a horse.Both of them stayed there for a long time.In course of time,Sangya gave birth to two sons who became famous as Ashwini kumars.'
Martand instructed both his sons to please lord Brahma with their devotion.Both of them engaged themselves in austere penance.Finally,lord Brahma appeared and blessed both of them by saying-'Your good-looks and knowledge of ayurveda will be unmatched in the world.'It was 'dwitiya'(second day) when lord Brahma had blessed both the Ashwini kumars.This is the reason why this particular day is the reason why this particular day is deeply attached with the worship of Ashwini kumars.'

GODDESS PARVATI

King Prajapal asked Mahatapa about the reason why goddess Gauri-the epithet of power,had to take incaranation.Sage Mahatapa replied -"Goddess Gauri manifested from lord Narayan and was offered to Rudra as his consort by lord Brahma.Lord Brahma then instructed Brahma to begin creation but Rudra being free from all kinds of worldly attachment refused to oblige lord Brahma and engaged himself in austere penance.Goddess Gauri then merged her identity with Brahma,who later on created his seven 'manas-putras'. In course of time,Gauri was born as the daughter of Daksha Prajapati and hence came to be known as 'Dakshayani'.
Once, Daksha Prajapati organised a grand yagya in which all the seven manasputras were assigned specific responsibilities.Meanwhile,Rudra came out from his meditation and was extremely furious to see the earth occupied by countless creatures.He thought-'Brahma had requested me to create then who is responsible for all these creation? Who has dared to transgress my authority ?' As Rudra stood wondering,suddenly he heard the sound of the mantras being chanted at the yagya performed by Daksha.Now, Rudra's fury crossed all limits resulting into the emergence of numerous spirits and ghosts from his ears.He then went to the oblation-site accompanied by the ghosts and started destroying it.Lord Vishnu tried to protest as a result of which a fierce battle was fought between both of them.It was only on lord Brahma's intervention that both of them stopped fighting.Lord Brahma said-'From now onwards Rudra would become famous as 'Har' while Vishnu would be known as 'Hari'.He then directed the deities to eulogize Rudra and give his due share of the yagya being performed by Daksha Prajapati.'
Rudra became pleased by deities's eulogy and blessed them.This way,Daksha Prajapati was able to accomplish his yagya with the blessings of Rudra.In course of time,Rudra married Gauri-the daughter of Daksha Prajapati.Once,Gauri went to her father's place to attend a yagya ceremony against the wish of her husband.On seeing her,Daksha Prajapati started cursing Rudra.Gauri was so enraged by her father's attitude that she gave up her life by jumping into the sacrificial fire meant for the yagya.Later on,she took rebirth as Parvati-the daughter of Himalaya.Parvati did an austere penance to get Shiva as her husband.Ultimately her desire was fulfilled and she became the consort of lord Shiva.
The tithi of tritiya is very deeply attached with the worship of goddess Parvati because all the important events of her life(birth,marriage,etc.)took place on this day.This is the reason why tritiya is attributed to the worship of goddess Parvati.A woman who observe a fast on this day enjoys a blissful married life.One important ritual related with the austerity of tritiya is avoiding the usage of salt on this day.

LORD GANAPATI

King Prajapal then asked sage Mahatapa about the manifestation of lord Ganapati and about the significance of chaturthi in terms of Ganapati's worship.Mahatapa narrated the following tale- "Once,all the deities went to seek Shiva's help in sorting out a peculiar problem they were faced with- while they experienced all sorts of hurdles and problems in their work resulting into repeated failures in their work,the demons on the contrary accomplished all their work successfully without any problem. When lord Shiva learnt about their problem,he burst into laughter.Hardly had he stopped laughing than a radiant adolescent manifested himself from his opened mouth.The child was so divinely charming that Parvati,who was sitting beside Shiva looked at him without dropping her eyelids.When Shiva found her staring at the child he became jealous.Jealousy transformed into anger and Shiva cursed the child-'From now onwards your face will resemble an elephant and your belly will become large as a pot.In the name of yagyopavit you would have nothing but a snake hanging across your shoulder.'
The child was none other than Ganesh.Lord Shiva's anger did not subside even after having cursed Ganesh. He was still trembling in anger and was sweating profusely.Numerous Ganeshas manifested themselves from those sweat-drops and each of them had a head of an elephant as well as a large belly.Suddenly, lord Brahma appeared and requested lord Shiva by saying-'You should make this divine child,who has manifested from your mouth,the lord of all these Vinayakas.Thus,lord Shiva made Ganesh the lord of all the Vinayakas and blessed him-'You will be the first deity to get worshipped in any ritual.'
Chaturthi has deep association with the worship of lord Ganesh,as it was on this very day that he had manifested himself.Having prasad,prepared from sesame seeds and worshipping lord Ganesh on this day is believed to bring great auspiciousness.A devotee who worships lord Ganesh on chaturthi never experiences any kind of obstacle in his work.

NAG DEVTA

King Prajapal then requested Mahatapa to shed light on the origin of the serpents and the significance of 'panchami'.Sage Mahatapa replied-The serpents came from the lineage of Kadru-Kashyap's wife.Sage Kashyap had numerous progeny from Kadru-Vasuki,Anant,Kambal,Karkotak,Padma,Mahapadma,Shankh,Kulik,etc. When all these serpents started tormenting human-beings,lord Brahma cursed them that they would be annihilated during swayambhuva manvantar due to the curse of their own mother.
The serpents became terrified and promised to mend their ways.They then requested lord Brahma to give them a place to live in.Lord Brahma instructed them to go to three different netherworlds-Sutal,Vital and Patal.He also warned them that during Vaivaswat manvantar Janmejay would perform a grand yagya with the objective of destroying the wicked serpents but the virtuous among them would manage to survive.This particular incident had occured on panchami and hence it became the destroyer of all sins.A devotee who worships 'Nag'(serpent) on this day and offers milk will never be troubled by them.