The twelve months of the Hindu year , based on the lunar calendar , are named after that star during whose ascendency the full moon of that month occurs. The full moon day Chaitra month, that is the Purnima month during the ascendency of the Chitra star is particularly sacred to the Chitra Guptas, the recording angels of the Hindu pantheon. A special worship is offered to these celestial representatives of the god of death , and an offering of spiced rice is prepared and later distributed as prasad or holy sacrement. A fire worship is done at the close of the ritualistic worship. By the perfomance of this religious observance annually, these angels of the other world are greatly pleased and judge man's actions with more sympathy.
The psychological effect of this worship, done on the very first full moon day of every year ( Chaitra is the first of the twelve months ), is to vividly remind us of the higher power that maintains a constant watch over every act of ours on this earth-plane. This memory serves as an invisible check on one's conduct. The conception of the Chitra Guptas as located within each shoulder is a powerful inducement to keep oneself engaged in constantly doing good actions only.
The term Chitra Gupta means " hidden picture " . A true picture of all our good and evil actions is preserved in the ethereal records. The real significance of the worship of the Chitra Guptas is beautifully brought out in the following story connected with it.
Brihaspati is the Guru or preceptor of Indra , the king of the gods. Indra disobeyed Brihaspati on one occasion and the Guru relinquished his task of instructing Indra in what he should and should not do. During the period of the Guru's absence, Indra did many evil deeds. When the compassionate Guru resumed his duty again , Indra wanted to know what he should do to expiate the wrongs he had done in his Guru's absence . Brihaspati asked Indra to undertake a pilgrimage.
While Indra was on pilgrimage, he suddenly felt the load of sins taken off his shoulders at a certain place ( near Madurai in South India ), and he discovered a Shiva Lingam there . He attributed the miracle to this Lingam and wanted to build a temple for it. He had this constructed immediately. Now he wished to perform the worship of the Lingam ; the Lord Himself caused golden lotuses to appear in a nearby pond. Indra was greatly pleased and blessed. The day on which he thus worshipped the Lord was Chitra Purnima.
When you perform worship on the Chitra Purnima day, remember this story. If you have intense faith , if you feel with a contrite heart that you have commited sins on account of ignorance , if you pray with faith and devotion to the Lord to forgive your sins, if you resolve to be obedient to your Guru and never to flout his counsel, then your sins will be forgiven. There is no doubt about this. This is the signifance of the above story of Indra Meditate on this story on Chitra Purnima day.
The Hindu scriptures prescribe elaborate worship of the Chitra Guptas on this day. The Deity in invoked in an image ao a kalasa ( vessel filled with water ) and then worshipped with all the rituals and formalities of the worship offered to God's image.Meditate on Chitra Gupta , reciting the following verse :
Chitra guptam mahaa praajnam lekhaneepatra dhaarinam;
Chitra-ratnaambara-dhaaram madhyastham sarvadehinaam.
Then offer ritualistic worship with incense , camphor, flowers , etc. Feed some Brahmins, the poor and the needy. Give bountifully in charity and receive the Lord's blessings.
DEEPAVALI or Diwali means "a row of lights". It falls on the last two days of the dark half of Kartik (October-November). For some it is a three-day festival. It commences with the Dhan-Teras, on the 13th day of the dark half of Kartik, followed the next day by the Narak Chaudas, the 14th day, and by Deepavali proper on the 15th day.
These are various alleged origins attributed to this festival. Some hold that they celebrate the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu. In Bengal the festival is dedicated to the worship of Kali. It also commemorates that blessed day on which the triumphant Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya after defeating Ravana. On this day also Sri Krishna killed the demon Narakasura.
In South India people take oil bath in the morning and wear new clothes. They partake of sweetmeats. They light fireworks which are regarded as the effigies of Narakasura who was killed on this day. They greet one another, asking, "Have you had your Ganges bath?" which actually refers to the oil bath that morning as it is regarded as purifying as a bath in the holy Ganges.
Everyone forgets and forgives the wrongs done by others. There is an air of freedom, festivity and friendliness everywhere. This festival brings about unity. It instils charity in the hearts of people. Everyone buys new clothes for the family. Employers, too, purchase new clothes for their employees.
Waking up during the Brahmamuhurta (at 4a.m.) is a great blessing from the standpoint of health, ethical discipline, efficiency in work and spiritual advancement. It is on Deepavali that everyone wakes up early in the morning. The sages who instituted this custom must have cherished the hope that their descendents would realise its benefits and make it a regular habit in their lives.
In a happy mood of great rejoicing village folk move about freely, mixing with one another without any reserve, all enmity being forgotten. People embrace one another with love. Deepavali is a great unifying force. Those with keen inner spiritual ears will clearly hear the voice of the sages, "O Children of God! unite, and love all". The vibrations produced by greetings of love which fill the atmosphere are powerful enough to bring about a change of heart in every man and woman in the world. Alas! That heart has considerably hardened, and only a continuous celebration of Deepavali in our homes can rekindle in us the urgent need of turning away from the ruinous path of hatred.
On this day Hindu merchants in North India open their new account books and pray for success and prosperity during the coming year. The homes are cleaned and decorated by day and illuminated by night with earthern oil-lamps. The best and finest illuminations are to be seen in Bombay and Amritsar. The famous Golden Temple at Amritsar is lit in the evening with thousands of lamps placed all over the steps of the big tank. Vaishnavites celebrate the Govardham Puja and feed the poor on a large scale.
O Ram! The light of lights, the self-luminous inner light of the Self is ever shining steadily in the chamber of your heart. Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Withdraw the senses. Fix the mind on this supreme light and enjoy the real Deepavali, by attaining illumination of the soul.
He who Himself sees all but whom no one beholds, who illumines the intellect, the sun. the moon and the stars and the whole universe but whom they cannot illumine, He indeed is Brahman, He is the inner Self. Celebrate the real Deepavali by living in Brahman, and enjoy the eternal bliss of the soul.
The sun does not shine there, nor do the moon and the stars, nor do lightnings shine and much less fire. All the lights of the world cannot be compared even to a ray of the inner light of the Self. Merge yourself in this light of lights and enjoy the supreme Deepavali.
Many Deepavali festivals have come and gone. Yet the hearts of the vast majority are as dark as the night of the new moon. The house is lit with lamps, but the heart is full of the darkness of ignorance. O man! wake up from the slumber of ignorance. Realise the constant and eternal light of the Soul which neither rises nor sets, through meditation and deep enquiry.
May you all attain full inner illumination! May the supreme light of lights enlighten your understanding! May you all attain the inexhaustible spiritual wealth of the Self! May you all prosper gloriously on the material as well as spiritual planes!
On the full moon day of the month of Kartigai ( November - December ) which falls on the ascension of the Kritigai star , the Hindus celebrate the Kartigai Deepam. It is on this day that the huge beacon is lit on the holy hill Arunachala , in South India.
Once Lord Shiva assumed the form of a hill at Tiruvannamalai in South India. Here He quelled the pride of Brahma and Vishnu who were quarelling as to their relative greatness. One day, when Lord Shiva was in meditation , Parvati left Him and went to the hill of Arunachala. There She performed penance. She was the guest of the sage Gautama. It was during Her penance here that Mahishasura was killed by Durga hidden by Parvati. Parvati saw Shiva as Arunachalesvara. She was taken back by the Lord to His side , and made His Ardhangini once more, that is , She occupied half of the body of the Lord.
Arunachalesvara is Tejo Lingam. Arunachala or theTiruvannamalai Hill is the place that represents the fire element . ( The five elements are represented by five holy places in India .)
When the light on the top of the Tiruvannamali Hill is unveiled on the Kartigai Deepam day, people see the big light and worship it. They recite again and again in a loud voice " Harohara ". The estoric meaning is that he who sees the light of lights that is burning eternally in the chambers of his heart through constant meditation attains immortality. The light on the Arunachala brings the message to you that the Self or Lord Shiva is self-effulgent, He is the light of lights.
On the Kartigai Deepam day in South India , peoplemake bonfires in front of temples in the evening . It is said that Lord Shiva burnt the chariots of several demons who were torturing sages and celestials . This bonfire symbolises this legend.
People place rows of earthen lamps in front of their houses on the evening of Kartigai Deepam and worship the Lord .
Annihialte the three impurities , namely , egoism , selfish action and delusion . Burn the mind , senses and the desires in the fire of knowledge of the Self or ShivaJnanam . Attain full illumination and behold the light of lights , which illumines the mind, intellect , sun , moon, stars , lightning and the fire. This is real Kartigai Deepam.
May the light of lights illumine you all ! May Lord Shiva bless you with more light more light ! May you merge in this supreme light and attain the eternal abode of bliss and immortality !