Category Archives: Art & Culture


PanchkanyaPanchakanya (पञ्चकन्याpañcakanyā, lit. “five girls”) is a group of five iconic heroines of Hindu epics, extolled in a hymn and whose names are believed to dispel sin when recited. They are AhalyaDraupadiSita or KuntiTara, and Mandodari. While Draupadi and Kunti are from Mahabharata, Ahalya, Tara, Mandodari and Sita are from the epic Ramayana.

7 Of The Most Powerful Women From Hindu Mythology

7 Of The Most Powerful and Awe Inspiring Women From Hindu Mythology

Compiled By: Vineeta Tawney


#1 Gandhari, The Mother Of A Hundred Sons

#2 Tadaatagai, Incarnation Of Parvati

#3 Mandodari, The Queen of Lanka

#4 Kannagi, The Bane Of Madurai

#5 Savitri, Cheater of Death

#6 Satyabhama, Slayer Of Narksura

#7 Mohini, Avatar Of Vishnu



By: Vineeta Tawney

PondyPondicherry is a medley of old world charms, with a potpourri of people; where history meets legends and a confluence of cultures exist. Here, the past and the present blend, as nostalgia lingers in every corner of the city.

We went to Pondicherry in search of new landmarks – to look beyond Auroville and the Aurobindo Ashram .The French influence is almost omnipresent . You can sense it in the streets , in the red kapis of the policemen, in the architecture, the cuisine and even in the accents. It is not just the French, but even Roman connections are evident here . Excavations unearthed in Arikamedu, in the outskirts of Pondicherry have proved that Romans had settled here . Legends associate this sea side town with the ancient Hindu sage Agastya . The 300 odd temples here are testimony to the same . It is difficult to typify this town which smacks of the old colonial era and yet is so distinctively Indian .

Beautiful description of Lord Ganesh by BK Sister Shivani

Beautiful description of Lord Ganesh by BK Sister Shivani

By: Vineeta Tawney
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Lord Ganesh is a symbol of perfection.
His small eyes, characteristic of an elephant head, indicate that he is far-sighted, just the way we squint when we want to see something far away or clearly. It means, as in the general sense of far-sightedness, that he considers the consequences of his thoughts and actions, and is not narrow-viewed ( instead of saying narrow-minded )
Lord Ganapati has large ears, and a small mouth. Again characteristic of elephants. This means that he listens much more than he speaks. Which is the ideal we all need to aspire to. And which is the trait of ideal communication.
(There was something excellent sister Shivani said about his trunk, which I dont remember now. I should’ve written it down ! )
His large body, means he has great acceptance/tolerance level. Things that come/happen to Him, he is able to absorb it, and keep it down. Acceptance and tolerance is what we all should aspire to.
On the topic of His having an elephant head. Lord Ganesh was made from the “mal” dirt of the Devi. Mal-Buddhi. If an artist wanted to depict that Vinayak’s intelligence had been upgraded, how could he do that ? An elephant has the reputation of being wise. An elephant head depicts that Lord Ganesh is prefectly wise.
Shri Ganesh has a mouse as his vehicle. A mouse is viewed as an animal constantly in action, nibbling and chewing and gnawing away at things that we had rather it did not. Creating waste. In excess of its requirement. In ceaseless nervous energy. Multiplying at a fast rate. Much the way as our mind and its thoughts. Lord Ganesha is astride this mouse, in control and directing it to auspiciousness.
On the topic of Lord Shiva chopping of Vinayak’s head. The story is that Lord Shiva returned from meditation and was angered at Vinayak obstructing his way, and chopped off his head. How could anyone returning from years of meditation have such a fit of temper ? All the story wants to say is that Shiva baba upgraded Vinayak’s current status of Mal-buddhi to one of perfect wisdom.
After years of meditation Lord Shiva gave us an upgraded Vinayak, a perfect being with perfect wisdom, and perfect Shiva soul qualities.
Shri Ganesh is shown with two companions – Riddhi and Siddhi. Prosperity and Virtues. When one is so perfect, these companions are bound to follow.
Ganapati Bappa Morya !
Thanks to Brahmakumari Sister Shivani for her beautiful, peaceful, non-violent meditation on Ganapati Bappa.

My new found knowledge on Adi Shankaracharya

Four Maths – Char Dhams – established by Shankara
During his travels across the length and breadth of India, he established four maths (ashrams) to unify the scattered and diverse groups of Sannyasis. Four maths were established, about 700 AD, in four different corners of India. He selected four of his senior most disciples to head each of these maths. Each of these maths was assigned the task of maintaining and preserving for posterity, one of the four Vedas (the main scriptures of Hinduism) and a Maha Vakya. Shankaracharya reorganised all the Sannyasis in India into ten main groups (the Dasanami Sannyasa Tradition) allocated to different maths.

Historical and literary evidences also exist which prove that the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt at Kanceepuram, in Tamil Nadu, was also founded by Shankaracharya.

Chatur Dhams

Direction South India West India North India East India
Place Sringeri Dwaraka Badrinath Puri
Math Name Sringeri Math Sarada Math Jyotir Math Govardhan Math
Acharya Sureswara Hastamalaka Trotaka Padmapada
Veda Yagur Sama Atharva Rik
Mantra Aham brahmāsmi Tattvamasi Ayamātmā brahma Prajñānam brahma
Sanyasa Order Saraswati, Bharati, Puri Tirtha, Ashrama Giri, Parvata, Sagara Vanam, Aranyam
The Puri Sannyasa Tradition
The Sannyasis of Mata Amritanandamayi Math belong to the Puri Sannyasa tradition. According to the tradition set forth by Adi Shankaracharya, the Puri Sannyasa tradition is characterised by the following – formal allegiance to the Sringeri Math

first Acharya (teacher) – Sureswara
follow the Bhurivara Sampradaya (customs)
traditional Kshetra (Temple) – Rameshwar
traditional Deva (God) – Adi Varaha (The incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of a boar)
traditional Devi (Goddess) – Kamakshi (Sharada)
traditional Veda – Yajur Veda
traditional Upanishad – Kathopanishad
traditional Mahavakya (statement revealing the nature of Absolute Reality ) – Aham Brahmasmi
traditional Tirtha (Holy River) – Tungabhadra
traditional Gotra (descent or lineage) – Bhaveshavar Rishi

Legends of Shankaracharya
Shower of Gold

Before he was eight, as a young Brahmachari, the young Shankara went to a house to beg for his daily food. The hostess was a kind but very poor lady. All she could give him was a small amalaka fruit. Shankara was deeply touched by the sincerity of this poor lady and he invoked Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth) by singing spontaneously the Kanakadhara Stotra The legend has it that the Goddess showered golden amalaka fruits into the house.

Changing the course of the Purna river

Shankara’s mother used to go a long way everyday to take her bath in the Purna river. One day the young Shankara found her lying unconscious, due to exhaustion. He prayed to the Lord and the next morning the river started flowing by the side of his house.

Guru Govindapada’s blessings

During the rainy season, the river Narmada was in spate. The flood waters rose and were about to enter the cave in which his Guru was sitting, deeply immersed in Samadhi. His disciples did not dare to disturb him, though his life was in danger. Then Shankaracharya placed his kamandalu (water pot) at the entrance of the cave saying that it would absorb all the waters of the flood. His words came true. The flood waters could not disturb his Guru’s meditation. Guru Govindapada blessed him saying “Just as you contained the flood waters in your kamandalu, you should write commentaries containing the essence of the Vedantic scriptures. By this work you will gain eternal glory.”


When Shankara broached the topic of his embracing the Sannyasa way of life, his mother was reluctant to give him her permission and blessings. One day, however, when he accompanied his mother for a bath in the river, a crocodile caught hold of his leg and started dragging him. His mother could only stand and watch helplessly. Then Shankara called out to his mother, asking her to permit him to become a Sannyasi at least during these last moments of his life. She agreed and miraculously the crocodile let go of Shankara’s leg. To console his mother he promised her that he would come back to her at the time of her death and perform the last rites.

Final rites of his mother

Shankaracharya was some where in North India when he came to know of his mother’s impending death. By using his Yogic powers, travelled through the air to reach her quickly. At her request he granted her divine visions.

When he tried to arrange the cremation of his mother’s body, his relatives refused to help him on the grounds that as a Sannyasi he was not permitted to perform funeral rites. Normally this would have been a serious setback as a cremation involves rituals, which would require physical assistance by a few people. So Shankaracharya performed a miracle. He made a funeral pyre out of plantain stalks. After placing the body on the pyre he took some water and after chanting a few mantras he sprinkled the water on the pyre. Immediately the pyre caught fire. Thus he was able to complete the funeral rites without help.

Adhik Maas/Adhik Mahina

By: Vineeta Tawney

Purushottam Maas (translit. puruśottama māsa) or Adhik Maas (translit. adhika = ‘extra’, māsa = ‘month’) is an extra month in the Hindu calendar that is inserted to keep the lunar and solar calendars aligned. “Purushottam” is an epithet of Vishnu, to whom the month is dedicated.

How is adhik Maas calculated?
On an average Adhik Maas comes in 2 years and 8.5 months. This value can be verfied dividing the duration of month i.e. 29.5 days by 10.9. Lunar year is 10.9 days smaller than solar year therefore after dividing 29.53/10.9=2 years and 8.5 months there arises a difference of one month

Why there is an adhik Maas how often does it come and why?
A leap month, commonly referred to as Adhik Maas or Purushottam Maas, is added when a lunar month ends before the Sun has moved to a new zodiac sign. It is omitted when the Sun traverses a whole zodiac sign during the course of a lunar month. The Hindu calendar year always has 12 or 13 months.

Scientific calculation[edit]
The Moon takes about 27.3 days to make one complete orbit around the earth. The earth orbits around the sun once every 365.2422 days (= earth’s orbital speed of 29.79 km per second). The earth and the moon in 27.3 days have moved as a system about 1/12 of the way around the sun. This means that from one full moon to the next full moon, the moon must travel 2.2 extra days before it appears again as a full moon, due to the curve of the earth’s orbit around the sun. Ultimately this creates a variance of 10.87 days a year between a lunar year and a solar year. To compensate for this difference, the additional month is added after every 32.5 months on average.
Just as there are lunar years with the extra month making 13 total months, there are lunar years with a reduced number of months, with only eleven months in the particular lunar year. The lunar year with eleven months is very rare. It occurs once in 140 years or once in 190 years.