Tag Archive: Hinduism

Hinduism and Nature - release of book









The book, Ganesha: the Auspicious…the Beginning, written by Shakunthala Jagannathan, who passed away in 2000, and her daughter, Dr. Nanditha Krishna, is about the elephant-headed God, Ganesha, who is beloved by all Hindus.


In general, a prayer to Ganesha preceeds all occasions of Hindu worship and all events of any importance, such as the dedication of a building or a new business.


Ganesha is jovial, kind, and good-natured – he brings success and good fortune to all endeavors. Like the elephant who makes a way through the dense jungle so that other animals can follow, Ganesha overcomes all obstacles, he finds a way where there seems to be no possible way. He is the very essence of positivity and possibility.


One of the sects of Hinduism, the Ganapatya sect, worships Ganesha as the ultimate form of God, as Brahman, who is the ultimate reality, as the One Truth, who is Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – the One from whom the entire universe was born.


Because, with the proportions of an elephant, he is very big, he contains within him the entire cosmos and all that exists.


A more widely held perspective within Hinduism, however, places the triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva as being the three primary Gods who were present at the beginning, with Brahma having been given the task of creating the universe. From this viewpoint, Ganesha is the son of Shiva and his consort, Parvati.


There is no conflict though between these two views. Hinduism has a way of reconciling and including many divergent ways of seeing things. It is rather like the old parable of nine blind men describing the elephant – one who has felt the elephant’s legs says he is like four pillars, one who has felt the trunk says he is long and tubular, one who has felt only the tusks says he is sharp, curved, and pointed, and so on. No one is right or wrong – all are describing reality as they perceive it. Since reality is vast and infinite beyond our imagining, all the different stories that are part of the Hindu tradition serve as ways to add to one’s understanding.


Ganesha is the sacred syllable Om, the first sound and the first word, from which all created things spring forth. Ganesha appears at dawn, in joy, dancing in the first light. The mystic syllable Om encompasses the entire universe, extending beyond the boundaries of time and space, and this is the reason it is spoken at the beginning and end of meditation or prayer.


The book, Ganesha: The Auspicious…The Beginning is a profound and delightful book, which gives one an insight into the nature of this wonderful God, Ganesha, who brings peace, calm, knowledge, freedom from burdens, and success – who is at once infinitely complex and beautifully simple.


Image: “This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.” From a painting done around 1800 by an unknown artist. / Wikimedia Commons / “The five prime deities of Smartas in a Ganesha-centric Panchayatana: Ganesha (centre) with Shiva (top left), Devi or Durga (top right), Vishnu (bottom left) and Surya (bottom right).”


To see Ganesha: The Auspicisous…the Beginning on Amazon, click here.


© Sharon St Joan, 2014




A water buffalo

By Dr. Nanditha Krishna

The late Paramacharya of Kanchi – venerated as a saint in his lifetime – said that any function (wedding, festival, etc.) involving the death of animals – including the wearing of silk – cannot be termed as “Hindu”, as every Hindu shastra and mantra speaks of ahimsa as an ideal and invokes nature, both animals and plants, in every ritual.

Unfortunately, Hinduism, in its all-absorbing catholicism, has permitted the entry of all kinds of practices, including animal sacrifice, which was given up in the Vedantic period (1000 B.C.) following the influence of the Upanishads, which came out strongly against the sacrifices of the early Vedic period. Buddhism and Jainism were a similar result of Upanishadic teachings.

Durga puja (Navaratri) also celebrates the defeat of the buffalo-grazers of ancient India by the food-producing Dravidians (Mundas) who worshipped the Mother Goddess. Thus you will find that Durga pooja and buffalo sacrifice is strongest in places of Dravidian culture, such as eastern, north-eastern (including Nepal) and southern India. It has nothing to do with religion. It is a mere celebration of the take over of land which belonged to indigenous people by their conquerors. Tribes such as the Gonds, Maria Gonds, Todas, etc., still worship and graze the buffalo and bury it with ritual honours when it dies. Sacrificing the buffalo – who is described as a demon – was their way of showing contempt for the buffalo grazers. I have written extensively on this subject in my BOOK OF DEMONS, published by Penguin India.

There is neither God nor religion in the act of taking life. I condemn it strongly. We Hindus should work BEFORE the next Navaratri to educate people about how and why buffaloes are sacrificed. The Devi Mahatmya, which is read for nine days during Navaratri, does not even mention animal sacrifice, so it is obviously alien to Durga Pooja. Devi merely kills the demon Mahisha-asura (among others), who took the form of a buffalo. Animal sacrifice is a laukika (folk) not shastraic (canonical) tradition, so you have to persuade local people to give it up at every individual temple.

The Varahariswarar Temple near Kanchipuram

In the 7th century A.D. the great philosopher Adi Shankara stopped animal sacrifice wherever he went – from Pashupatinath in Nepal to Kanchi Kamakshi in the south (he walked all over India). The Shankaracharyas of Kanchi have stopped it in many villages in Tamilnadu, which is one of the reasons why they were hounded by the government. Unfortunately, it suits governments to let the common people “amuse” themselves with sacrifice, etc. so that they will not notice more important problems such as corruption and mis-governance.

Today we are living in an age of crass commercialisation and conspicuous consumption. How does a person show off his/her wealth and power? By sacrificing many buffaloes. It has been mentioned that the cost of a young buffalo is anywhere between Rs 30,000 and Rs 35,000. A person who wastes his money and the life of an animal so easily is not only showing off his wealth, but also his power to take away life – making him a “living God”. That is the ultimate arrogance.

A temple cat, Kanchipuram

Unfortunately, thanks to the Muslim demand for animal sacrifice on Bakr-Id, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act says that nothing contained in the Act shall apply to the use of animals for religious purposes, giving a clean chit to animal sacrifice. Muslim and Hindu animal activists have to work together to stop this cruelty and nonsense. While Ibrahim may have sacrificed a ram instead of his son, God never asked him to kill a ram every year. Nor does Ma Durga thirst for buffalo blood.

Top photo: Zzvet / dreamstime.com / A water buffalo


Second photo:  The Varahariswarar Temple near Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu


Third photo: A temple cat, Kanchipuram