Tag Archives: shiva

Hindu Muslim Unity: Kashmir Hindus and Muslims come together for Shivratri

JAMMU: Manzoor Ahmad Bhat, 62, returned after performing ‘Umrah’ (pilgrimage to Mecca) last month. He lives in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, but his current visit to Jammu has a special purpose and meaning.

He has brought walnuts to greet Girdharilal Daftari, his 68-year-old Kashmiri Pandit friend who lives in Jammu after shifting out of the Valley in early 1990 after outbreak of militancy. Walnuts are traditionally offered by Muslims to their Kashmiri Pandit neighbours and friends ahead of Shivratri.

Bhat and Daftari have been friends for over 30 years. The turbulence of time has upset many equations in Kashmir, but the brotherhood between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims has somehow survived.

Read more: Communal Harmony

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Dogs, Sufis, and Devotional Practices

PATTOKI: “That is an interesting shrine,” said Iqbal Qaiser, as he pointed towards the minaret rising from the middle of Pattoki. I later found out that the shrine was but a small part of a huge complex. The grave of the saint around which this shrine was raised was located in one corner of the courtyard. “The shrine belongs to Peer Abbas. He is popularly known as Kutiyan wali sarkar (the master of dogs)” The wali here signifies female. Almost all Sufis are referred to as females in iconography. This is in relation with God who is represented as a male figure. In Sufi poetry, a devotee, or a Sufi, presents himself as Heer, the legendary Punjabi folk lover, to Ranjha, the protagonist of the legend and a symbol of divinity in the Sufi tradition. This Sufi tradition also borrows from the Bhakhti tradition of Hinduism, in which Radha is represented as an ideal devotee approaching her God, Krishna, the male figure.

There are of course direct comparisons between Peer Abbas’s idiosyncratic association with dogs and Shaivism. For example, Lord Shiva, in his terrifying form, ugra, is accompanied by a pack of dogs, while he is depicted as mendicant ascetic. In Tantrism, Shiva, in the incarnation of Bhairava, is depicted either with the face of a dog or has a dog as his vehicle. In Bhairav temples all over India, devotees offer prayers to the statues of dogs or living dogs. Dogs wander inside and outside the temple of Kalbhairav in Varanasi, and are garlanded by worshippers. Others present them with food offerings as a form of worship.

In the Sufi tradition, death anniversary of a saint is celebrated with much pomp and fair as opposed to birthdays. The celebration is known asurs. This is because it is believed that after his death the Sufi becomes one with the divine existence, a concept similar to Monoism of Hinduism. This union is represented as a marriage ceremony where the divine is understood to be the husband (Krishna or Ranjha) while the bride (Radha or Heer) is the Sufi.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindu pilgrimage in Pakistan

Hindu pilgrims, Pakistan

Hindu pilgrims, Pakistan

Every year, my grandparents used to take us to Uncle Devraj’s house in Karachi where together we celebrated the annual full moon sighting, known as Diwali. Devraj was Hindu, and my grandfather was Muslim, but they both spoke Sindhi and shared familial roots. Theirs was not a unique story. Unlike in Punjab, where partition brought bloodshed on an unprecedented scale, the Sindh province to the south saw little or no communal violence. The Hindus of Sindh largely stayed behind. Muslim and Hindu families shared bonds that reached back generations; a sense of respect for community prevailed. My grandfather even had his own collection of Hindu icons in his study. Perhaps I’d taken the Durga from Devraj’s house thinking it would be equally at home with him.

Those memories, long forgotten, came flooding back when I decided to make a trip to the Hinglaj—a Hindu holy site located half a day’s journey from Karachi. The Hinglaj temple is located in a cave in the Hingol mountains. It is where the goddess Sati’s head (one of the forms of Durga) is said to have fallen from the sky after her body was cut into 51 pieces by Vishnu. “The Hinglaj is to us as the Ka’abah is to you,” said my local Hindu guide, Danesh Kumar, referring to the shrine in Mecca toward which all Muslims direct their daily prayers.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistan’s Sufis, Jains, and Sadhus

Traveling Malang

Traveling Malang

The tomb of the Sufi saint Daud Bandagi Kirmani is a typical Mughal construction with an octagonal base and a round bulbous white dome. The shrine is covered by a protective wall and there are several other graves in this courtyard, some of his descendants and others of rich people from the city who paid or vied to be buried close to the saint, hoping to achieve salvation through their proximity.

The shrine is located in the centre of this city of Shergarh, a historical city located about 100 kilometers south of Lahore. The city as well is protected by a fort like wall. Whereas such walls of larger cities in India were razed down by the British after 1857, they remained untouched in smaller cities. The entire city was celebrating the annual 3 day celebration of the urs of the saint. All streets and roads in here had been converted into a makeshift bazaar. Smell of freshly prepared samosa lingered in the air. Some were selling eatables to those who did not want to partake in the langaar at the shrine. Most of the shops were selling religious paraphernalia – sacred threads, bangles, rings with special stones, items one is likely to encounter outside major Hindu temples. In fact to an unacquainted visitor this might as well be the threshold of a Hindu temple. The only difference would be the posters. All the posters here represented iconic Muslim saints like Daud Bandagi, Baba Farid, and Shahbaz Qalandar, while posters outside Hindu temples sell Hindu images. Women, men, children, old and young, all throng to the shrine for these festivities.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslim takes care of both mandir and masjid

Muslim caretaker offers garland on Shivalinga

Muslim caretaker offers garland on Shivalinga

INDORE: Mohammed Zahir is the caretaker of Lord Shiva temple in Khandwa, Indore. He takes care of the temple with the same enthusiasm as for the Dargah round the year.  From dawn to dusk he takes care of the temple, from cleaning the periphery of the temple to the core of it, that is, the ‘Lingam’. Religions have never been an obstacle to his services. He believes that Allah, God, Bhagwan all are one, but our way of thinking makes them different.

There is no Hindu Pandit to offer any prayer or to do the rituals, he alone helps tourists offering their prayers and garlands that they bring for the temple. He also offers his services to the Dargah 100 meter away, which also comes under ASI. He takes care of both the places equally and thinks that it will help him teach equality and harmony to his five children.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Ghana’s Hindu temple reveres other faiths

Swami Ghanananda Swaraswati founded the African Hindu Temple in 1975

Swami Ghanananda Swaraswati founded the African Hindu Monastery in 1975

ACCRA: Ghana’s population of 23 million includes 12,500 Hindus, of which 10,000, like their Swami Ghanananda Saraswati, are indigenous Africans. The African Hindu Monastery (AHM) is now Ghana’s largest centre of Hindu worship.

The AHM’s non-exclusionist attitude is apparent from the picture of Jesus alongside the Hindu gods on the main mantelpiece, as well as images of spiritual leaders from other religions. The monastery’s members also believe that the Supreme God is known by other names, such as Yahweh and Allah.

There is even one Muslim among the devotees. Jamer Baroudy says he was born into the Islamic faith but his mother introduced him to Hinduism when he was eight years old. Mr Baroudy says: “I am aware that Islam prohibits idol worshipping but then God doesn’t make any distinction. I visit this temple because I find solace here.”

Ghanian Hindu reading Bhagavad Gita

Ghanian Hindu reading Bhagavad Gita

The AHM is not just accommodating of multiple religious traditions but also open to people of all races, classes and communities. Indian worshippers are not only members of the dominant Sindhi community, but also recent immigrants: managers and contract labour alike. But most worshippers are Africans, again from different professions and backgrounds. When I asked a disciple about the group’s opinion of the caste system, he pointed out that there is no society in the world that does not break its people up into the privileged and the unprivileged, be it through profession, ancestry or race. Ghanaian Hindus like him, however, are clear that people have an equal right to education, the means to a good life and most importantly, religion.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistan welcomes Hindu pilgrims from India

Indian Hindu pilgrim visits Katas Raj in Pakistan

Indian Hindu pilgrim visits Katas Raj in Pakistan

As many as 85 Hindu pilgrims from various states of India came to Katas Raj, their holy site, on Wednesday evening and left for India on Friday. They were welcomed by District Coordination Officer (DCO) Asif Bilal Lodhi, Assistant Commissioner Choa Saidan Shah Samina Saif Niazi and other officials concerned in two receptions.

Speaking in one of the receptions Chairman Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Saddiqul Farooq assured the Indian pilgrims that they would always be welcomed in Pakistan with warmth and affection. He stressed the need of interfaith harmony. “We should respect every religion. If we respect humanity our problems will solve,” he maintained. He urged the pilgrims to take the message of love and peace to their country.

Shiv Partab Bajaj the leader of the pilgrims while speaking on the occasion thanked the Pakistan government for making tremendous arrangements for the pilgrims. “The love and respect which you people gave us can never be forgotten,” he said. He added that when he came first time at Katas Raj in 1982 the temples were in pathetic condition , but now the holy site had been renovated.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindu festival successful because of Muslim artisans

INDORE:  Six Muslim artisans of Malwa Mill locality of Indore have fashioned two memorable tableaux depicting Hindu tales for the Anant Chaturdashi festival. Presenting a unique secular bond which has been the hallmark of the city’s pluralistic culture, Anwar Ali and his group, including Mohd Ejaz, 33, Haidar Ali, 22, Mohd Ateeq, 40, Mohd Naseer, 40, and Mohd Jaffer, 40, have spent one full month, meticulously crafting two tableaux of Shiv Tandav and Mahabharat.

“The Hindu priests like Shyam Dwivedi helped me and my brother-in-law Mohd Jaffer in studying the two Hindu scriptures and then taking out the necessary excerpts from them to draw paper prototype of the tableaux,” Anwar told TOI on Wednesday.

Importantly, Mohd Jaffer hails from Chandan Nagar area which was plagued by communal violence last month.

“It’s Allah (alimighty) who brought us to this world, but it’s solely the Hindu deities, who for generations have rendered livelihood to our families. Forget about communal violence in Chandan Nagar or even West UP’s Muzaffarnagar, for us both our religion and Hinduism are equally important,” Jaffar and Anwar said.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslim man donates land for temple construction on Shivratri

ALLAHABAD: ahmedAhmed offers namaz five times a day, decided to not only give up his land in Madhuban Vihar colony for construction of a Shiva temple but also laid the foundation stone of the temple. His selflessness and feeling of brotherhood reflected when he also collected donation and bricks for the temple, reported Amarujala News. The foundation laying ceremony on Thursday took place in the presence of several people from the locality and devotees from nearby Neeva and Salori areas. “He sacrificed his land for construction of Mahagauri mandir and he also extended co-operation in other things,” his admirers told Amarujala.

Ahmed said,”We all are servants of God. Then why should we differentiate ourselves on the basis of religion?” Ahmed is also the Conservator of Islamic seminary, Ashfaq welfare memorial society where kids from poor Muslim families take religious education.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Ajmer Muslims rebuild centuries-old Shiva temple

Khwaja Gharib Nawaz

AJMER: The khadims of the Dargah of Khwaja Garib Nawaz Chishti lent a helping hand to reconstruct an age-old Shiva temple, barely 400 metres from the main shrine in Ajmer.  On the left of the main Nizam Gate, tucked in a corner, lay the ruins of a centuries-old temple of Shri Pipaleshwar Mahadev till last year. However, now a magnificent temple stands at the site, built by the labor of both Hindus and Muslims.

“It was unanimously decided that since we are here for the service of the Khwaja, it would only be right on our part to pitch in for the construction of the temple,” says Sayeed Ibrahim Fakre, former member of state minority commission. The khadims along with some minority organisations generously contributed to rebuild the temple.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Kashmir Hindus and Muslims reunite for Shivratri

abhishakem

For the Hindus, better known as Kashmiri Pandits, Shivratri is the biggest festival on the calendar. And a scene that played out repeatedly this year in areas dominated by them was Muslims embracing and wishing their Hindu friends a happy holiday. For Kashmiri Hindus, nightlong prayers at home are followed by a visit to the temple on Shivratri. They also host a feast for friends the next day, known as Salam. Until militancy broke out in 1989, it was common for Kashmiri Pandits to host lunches for their Muslim friends and neighbors.

Mushtaq Ahmad waited for a Kashmiri Pandit family outside Ranishewar temple, housing an icon of Lord Shiva, in the rain, just to hug his friends and congratulate them. Mushtaq, who is a government employee, went to the home of his friend Sushil Kaul in Janipur, but was told by neighbors that the family had gone to the temple. He headed straight for the shrine. When Sushil and Mushtaq sighted each other, they couldn’t stop embracing. Tears rolled down their cheeks, retelling the story of two friends being back together.

Read more: Communal Harmony
Further reading: Night of Shiva, Shivratri Explained

Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslims construct Shiva temple

Chhath Festival, Bihar

BIHAR: Muslims have been quietly helping Hindus construct a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, ahead of the Chhath festival. “Muslims are not only donating money for temple construction, they are also actively involved in ensuring that it should come up soon,” said Rajkishore Raut, president of the Shiva Temple Construction Committee.

As Charminar and the Bhagyalakshmi temple abutting the 400-year-old monument get so much attention, these instances of collaboration between the two communities in temple construction cannot be ignored.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Shivratri: Night of Shiva

Shivrati marks the darkest night of the year where God is worshiped in the form of Shiva the Destroyer. Many Hindus fast throughout the day, chant mantras and the holy names of God, sing devotional songs, and bathe and make offerings to Shivalingam. The actual moment of Shivratri is usually around midnight, marking the darkest night of the year.

To observe the holiday also has symbolic significance – devotees worship at night to remove any spiritual darkness in their life and to increase their devotion.

Read more:
Shivratri by Swami Sivananda
Significance of Shivratri

Related links:
Muslim donates land for construction of Shiva temple
Kashmir Hindus & Muslims reunite for Shivratri

Is Hinduism polytheistic?

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Hinduism and Multiplicity in the Divine
by Ravi

Often a point of contention in religious debates, the idea of God manifesting in various forms is greatly misunderstood. There are some who believe that Hindus worship “330 million different gods” with Hindu verses taken out of context and misconstrued. It needs to be emphasized that the main point of this piece is not whether religions are polytheistic (belief in more than one god) or monotheistic (belief in one god). This is irrelevant – the objective is to show that multiple forms of the Creator are written about in the sacred texts of ALL major religions, not just in Hinduism. The essence is the same. The conflict is merely an issue of language/semantics. Before detailing what exactly Hinduism says on this subject it’s important to first examine the three religions which are usually labeled monotheistic.

What Abrahamic faiths say

Genesis 1:26 of the Torah narrates “”Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” The words “us” and “our” imply that more than one creator constructed humanity. In Genesis, one Supreme Force assigns the task of creating Adam to

prophets such as Moses received divine revelations from angels – representations of the Creator

a team of divine servants. The Old Testament calls this team “angels”; Hindu scriptures use the Sanskrit term devas (demigods) instead to describe those who serve Brahman. The Hebrew word El-ohim which is used numerous times in the Torah can be translated to mean one single God or multiple entities. At the end of every angel’s name is “el” (Gabri-el, Rapha-el, Immanu-el, etc.), each representing a different aspect or characteristic of the larger Creator El.

Catholicism references not one but three divinities – God the Father, Jesus his son, and the Holy Spirit. Catholics are also known to pray to various saints who handle specific issues. Protestant faiths revolve around the worship of two distinct beings, God the Father and his son Jesus. The New Testament 23:33 even contains a conversation where Jesus says “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  In monotheism would this be considered a monologue or a dialogue?

Islam continues in the lineage of the Hebrew prophet Abraham. Just as in the Torah, the Quran also uses the plural “we”: “And We did certainly create the heavens and earth ” (50:38) and “O people, we created you from the same male and female.” (49:13)

What Hinduism says

It’s clear that there’s an inconsistency when defining religions as polytheistic or monotheistic. When a person worships Ganesh the son and his Father Shiva they’re said to believe in more than one God. The same thing isn’t said about someone who worships Jesus the son and his Father Jehovah. The Catholic Trinity is considered monotheist, but the Hindu Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva is not. When the Vedas say that Brahman manifested as various entities then the conclusion is that Hindus believe in many gods. But when the book of Genesis and Surat Qaf describe a legion of creators that designed Man this is somehow not the same thing.

And what do religions say about how their sacred texts were delivered to prophets? Exodus 3:3 states “The angel of the Lord appeared to him as flames in the fire from a bush.” Here, commentators refer to this fire as “the presence of God.” But when this story is presented to the public, Moses is  instead talking directly with God, not an angel as the scriptures specify. Muslims also believe that the angel Gabriel revealed the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. Yet the Quran is referred to as  “the word of God.” Even though God did not directly transmit the Quran to Muhammad, it’s accepted that Gabriel is a representation of God delivering the word.

Yet critics of Hinduism will not allow this same logic to be applied to its scriptures. The Mahabharata was penned by sage Vyasa and dictated by Ganesh, yet it’s not considered a divine text because it wasn’t revealed by directly by Bhagavan.  The Bhagavad Gita was sung by Krishna, but since he’s an avatar (manifestation) of Vishnu in the form of an Earthly being, it’s not considered the word of God. And even though it was not heavenly beings but men who penned the New Testament the  same way the Vedas where were revealed to rishis, the Vedas cannot be considered divinely inspired.

The common argument is Biblical and Quranic verses do not promote polytheism, but that God merely materialized as separate representations at the same time. This is exactly what Hindu scriptures having been saying all along – that the Creator can manifest, act, and reveal on this plane in an infinite number of ways.

First let’s address the misconception that Hindus worship “330 million gods” (or some similar outlandish number) by looking directly into their scriptures. Rig Veda 1:164:46 says “the One Being is called by many names.” This point is elaborated in the Upanisads, a sub-text which is presented as conversations between a teacher and his pupils. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1:9:1 contains one such dialogue:

Student: How many gods are there?
Guru: Three hundred and three and three thousand and three.
Student: How many gods are there?
Guru: Thirty three.
Student: How many gods are there?
Guru: Six.

divine energy inhabits the entire Universe from the smallest atom to the largest astral body

This dialogue goes on until finally the Guru reaches the answer One. He continues by saying that there is one Being who pervades the entire universe and manifests in infinite forms. There is no Hindu text that lists a million names, let alone thirty three million. In a daily Vedic ceremony priests/brahmins are required to chant the many titles of God. If priests had to speak such  high a number in one ritual they’d probably be chanting their whole lives without a break. And imagine the overwhelming task if each Hindu had to individually worship 330 million gods every time they prayed or visited a temple!

The Katha Upanishad expands on the idea of infinite manifestations: There is one Ruler, the Spirit that is in all things, who transforms his own form into many.

Indian saint Namdev of the Sikh tradition also wrote in agreement with Hinduism:
He is the One in many, countless are His shapes and forms. He pervades all that exists; wherever I look, He is there.

The Bhagavad Gita also details the idea of devas and One Supreme Deity. Avatar narrator Krishna explains that devotees

infinite manifestations of the Divine

infinite manifestations of the Divine, benevolent and terrifying

have permission to devote their heart to the  form of God they desire:
I am in everyone’s heart. As soon as one desires to worship a deva, I make their faith steady so that he/she can devote himself to that particular deity. Endowed with such a faith, they execute worship of a particular deity and obtains their desires. But in reality these benefits are given by Me. (7:21-23)

This verse also gives a glimpse as to why there are no Hindu missionaries around the world working to convert people. The Gita states that whichever form of the Creator a person is attracted to whether it be Brahman, Allah, Raba, Yahweh, or anything else, they are encouraged to worship that form so long as the devotion is sincere and they obey God’s basic tenets. The viewpoint that the Supreme has created the Earth to be a battleground for religious fighting or competition is rejected.

Gita 17:23 says that the chanting of priests in Vedic ceremonies performed specifically for God’s agents are directly pleasing to Brahman:
From the beginning of creation, the three words OM TAT SAT were used to symbolize God. These three representations were used by brahmins chanting Vedic hymns for the satisfaction of the Supreme.

In Chapter 11 of the Gita, Krishna reveals his infinite forms to Arjun, showing that the Divine is able to manifest in an infinite number of ways, both beautiful and terrible. Arjun is so terrified of the sight that he asks Krishna to revert back to the comforting single, personal form understood by him. This is something mirrored by religious devotees, as most people attach themselves to the religion that makes them feel comfortable in their form of worship.

In all religions various attributes and qualities are assigned to the Creator. But the reality is most people choose to worship a form of the Creator they feel mirrors their personal viewpoints. Some view God as vengeful and angry, while others see a loving and merciful God. Some see God as encompassing of all these qualities, while others say God is incapable of having attributes since attributes are human-like. We see these differences in the various sects of religions, some causing rifts within communities that supposedly worship the same Supreme Being. Likewise in Hinduism, Hindus are attracted to the form of deity which is pleasing to their outlook on religion. Which form of God or deva appeals to a Hindu devotee’s heart and mind is the one they will choose to worship. Instead of being hung up on terms like “polytheism” or “monotheism” Hindus instead must focus on steadying their devotion, purifying their heart, and focusing their intellect on loving worship of the Infinite.

Sri Sarada Devi

Sri Sarada Devi

Brahman exists everywhere. Prophets and Incarnations are born to show benighted humanity their way. They give different instructions to suit different temperaments. There are many ways to realize truth. So all these instructions have their relative value. For instance, many birds are perched on the branches of a tree. They are of different colors: white, black, red, yellow, and so on. Their sounds, too, are different. But when they sing we say that the sounds are made by the birds. We do not designate one particular sound only as the sound of the birds, and refuse to acknowledge the other sounds as such.
Mother Sarada Devi