The Diverse Harvest Festivals in India – a closer look

 

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The Diverse Harvest Festivals in India – a closer look

With the harvest festivals like Makar Sankranti, Bihu, Lohri and Pongal right around the corner, we are all excited to see what this harvest season has in store for us. We were taught that these harvest festivals are one of the most fun-filled but equally important festivals for the farmers across India.

Therefore, it is our duty to educate our kids about these harvest festivals and their significance in India. This will be a fun-filled opportunity for them to see how these festivals are celebrated and why they are important.

Here are some ways that people celebrate these harvest festivals across India:

Pongal O Pongal!

Pongal is one of the most celebrated festivals in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is a 4 day long festival during the season when rice, turmeric, sugar-cane and other cereals are harvested. Typically, the celebrations consists of boiling rice in an earthen pot and making a sweet dish out of it, in the process allowing the rice to boil out of the pot while the people shout ‘Pongal O Pongal’.

The word Pongal means ‘to boil’ in Tamil. The first day is celebrated as Bhogi where useless house articles are thrown in the pyre and burnt.

The second day is when the rice is boiled in a pot outside of the house accompanied by sugarcane and other sweets for consumption. [Read more…]

Kindness, Love and Humility Always Beat Pride and Arrogance

Kindness and Humility Always Beat Pride and Arrogance

By Jayaram Rajaram

Narrate the following story to your child:

Kubera, the God of wealth went to to Lord Shiva and Parvati in Mt Kailash to show off his wealth to them. He invited Shiva and Parvati for a meal so he could show off all that he had. Since Shiva and Parvati were busy, they offered to send Ganesha for the meal. Shiva warned Kubera that Ganesha ate a lot. But Kubera haughtily and in an arrogant tone said “Let him eat as much as he wants!”.

Lord-Ganesha-Eating-Sweets

When Ganesha started eating, he ate and ate and ate till he ate up all the food. He then ate the furniture and Kubera’s palace and was still hungry. Kubera realized his foolishness and ran to Shiva and begged for his forgiveness. Kubera promised never to be so haughty and arrogant again. Pleased with Kubera’s realization, Shiva gave him a fistful of rice and asked him to give it to Ganesha. When Kubera gavve Ganesha the fistful of rice with love and humility Ganesha was satisfied and returned all his wealth to Kubera.

Ask your child: Are people important or things/toys?

If your child says “Toys”, ask him /her “Who gives you the toys?”

Your child will invariably say people. Then ask again -“So are people important or toys?”

Ask your child: Is showing off good?

Do your friends show off?

Do you like it when they show off?

You show off too sometimes.

Will Umachi / Bhagwan (God) like it if you show off?

Do you want to make the same mistake Kubera made?

What will happen if you show off?

Always share with your friends and be kind, or like Kubera you will lose friends and all your good things/toys.

Tell them: If you do good, you get good. If you do bad, you get bad. This is the rule of the universe and it is called Karma! Ask your child to repeat after you.

Image Credits: www.enjoyfestivals.com

The Importance of Women and How To Teach Your Son to Treat Them Well

The Importance of Women and How To Teach Your Son to Treat Them Well:

By Jayaram Rajaram

This is a very important story to narrate to children, especially to young boys:

A princess Savitri fell in love with a poor man called Satyavan. When Narada Muni (Saint) found out, he warned her that Satyavan had a short life and that he would die at an early age. Savitri said since she loved Satyavan very much, she would still get married to him. They tied the knot and after a few years as predicted by Narada Muni, Satyavan fell ill and died. On the day of Satyavan’s death, Savitri saw Lord Yama (The God of Death) himself and pleaded to him to give her her husband back and not take him away. Yama unmoved said nobody could stop death and carried on.

savitri_satyavan

Savitri, without giving up easily, followed Yama for miles and miles. Yama, impressed with her determination and perseverance gave her two boons. He said, “Ask for any two things other than the life of your husband and I shall grant them to you.”.  Savitri thought for a bit and asked 1. For the well-being of her father-in-law (Satyavan’s father), and 2. 100 sons!  Yama said ‘so be it’ without giving it much thought. No sooner had he done so the clever Savitri said, “how can I have any sons without my husband?”. Yama conceded defeat and returned Savitri’s husband to her.

Ask your child what they understood from this story? Accept all answers as there are no absolute right or wrong answers, but correct them in case they say anything totally wrong by using your discretion.

You Ask: Do you know that women are very strong?

Your son may say, no boys are stronger.

You say: Do you think Savitri was weak? She even helped her husband come back from the God of death! Is that not strength? We call this Shakthi or mental power in India.

Also, boys may be physically stronger than some girls, but really strong boys are the ones who never hit or hurt anyone. Boys who hit and hurt girls are actually the weakest because those who hurt people and especially girls have no friends and are not liked by anyone.

You Ask:

Where did you come from?

How would life be without your mother?

Who prays for your well-being every single day?

Who do you go to when you feel sad?

Wouldn’t it be good if you can be good friends with boys and girls?

Do you know you can pray to Durga Ma to destroy your fear when you are scared? Durga and Kaali are women, but super strong! They protect us.

This story can also be used effectively with your daughters to teach them that strength is not merely physical and that Love and being kind is a woman (girl’s) biggest gift. Teach them that boys and girls are on the same team and can work together to achieve anything they wish for.

Note to Parent: Let’s nurture a generation where women Love for their rights and men fight for women’s rights whenever there is discrimination in mundane material/household matters, but without the compulsion where women feel the need to do everything men do and make men do everything they do, to prove their worth (Neither women nor men need not prove their worth and must be free to pursue anything they wish to for their personal satisfaction but in a manner that impacts their family, society, country and world at large positively rather than negatively). Equality today has become merely for materialistic things, but In India we worship the feminine as it is every man’s duty and responsibility to balance the feminine energy in his body through Yoga, Pranayama and meditation (Crimes against women and rapes can be greatly reduced if only our education system embraces traditional yoga and meditation daily from the age of 8 for all children. Even if your child’s school doesn’t offer it, I recommend all parents to enrol their child -son or daughter in a good yoga program with a proper Guru). All good and beautiful things like creativity, intuition and aesthetics are feminine and yoga and the finer aspects of life nurture this energy. All human beings have masculine and feminine energy within and balancing these energies leads to harmonious coexistence has been the belief in Sanatana Dharma for eons (Masculine and feminine are subtle energies and are very different from male and female in the gross physical sense). Somewhere along the way we forgot the essence of worshipping the feminine and made it just another ritual. One of the most powerful mantras in the world is the Gayatri Mantra and that mantra brings about a feeling of contentment and inner peace as it harmonizes these subtle energies within.

Image Credits: hinduism.about.com

Parents Are Our First Gods

Parents Are Our First Gods:

By Jayaram Rajaram

Narrate the following story to your child:

Lord Shiva and his beloved wife Parvati were sitting in their celestial home Mt. Kailash with their children Ganesha (The elephant God) and Murugan (Karthikeya). Lord Shiva decided to test his children and told them that the person who goes around the universe 3 times and comes back first will be the winner of the day’s competition.

Murugan immediately whizzed away on his peackock (Murugan’s personal vahana) , while Ganesha sat happily eating laddoos and modhakas (Kozhakattais or white dumplings with sweet coconut filling). When Shiva asked Ganesha, why he hadn’t started on his meek vahana the mouse (Rat)? Ganesha slowly finished eating his favourite goodies and walked three times around Shiva and Parvati.

Ganesha going around parents

After walking around his parents, Ganesha bows down, prostrates and tells Shiva and Parvati that his parents are his universe. Shiva is mighty pleased with Ganesha’s intelligence, wit and knowledge and hugs him. Murugan comes back to find Ganesha happily sitting there. He wonders allowed how Ganesha’s mouse could have gone around the Universe faster than his peacock? Shiva explains to Murugan what Ganesha had done and declares him the winner and as an award, grants a boon to Ganesha that he will be the remover of all obstacles for anyone who prays to him. Hence people in India pray to Ganesha first for success of any task and even before any Puja.

Now tell your children that your parents are your universe and mean the world to you because without them you (the parent) will not be here. The very reason for our existence is our parents.

Ask them how would they feel if they were alone in this world without Amma (Mom) and Appa (Dad)? Tell them many children live in orphanages without their parents and that we can visit them and play with them sometime. Take your child to these orphanages once in a while to make them feel grateful for what they have.

Merely telling our kids this is not enough and as parents we must live this truth by caring for both (yours and your spouse’s) our elderly parents (if they are still around) daily. Your kids learn more by watching you rather than listening to you.

Tell them that in India there is a lofty saying: ‘Mata, Pita, Guru, Deivam, indicating the importance of ones parents, teacher and God’.

Note:

While you should not ask your children to respect you, you can tell them that you set the rules and are often strict with them so they grow up to be good human beings. Parent by example and communicate regularly by referring to the Ganesha story above.

We must do our parenting duty and serve our own parents well without expecting our kids to take care of us in our old age. Parenting and life is all about giving and duty for the sake of duty. What we get is merely a byproduct of what we give and this is the Nishkama Karma philosophy in the Bhagavad Gita.

As per Indian parenting styles and even Chanakya’s advise we must love our children and spend as much time with our child from 0-5 years, be strict and teach them right from wrong between 5 years and 16 years and then be their friend after that. There is a lot of wisdom in age old Indian traditions and philosophy that we must take advantage of.

Image Credits: tonmoygoswami.com

Simple Self Awareness and Self-Discipline Techniques for Kids Using Indian Mythology and Itihasas

Simple Self Awareness and Self-Discipline Techniques for Kids Using Indian Mythology and Itihasas:

By Jayaram Rajaram

Narrate the following to your child:

Ravana was a very powerful man who prayed hard to Lord Shiva for many powers. Lord Shiva made him very powerful. When Ravana saw Sita in the forest, he liked her a lot, so he used his powers to convince his uncle Maricha to become a deer, made her chase him and then kidnapped her.

Ask your child: Is this the right thing to do?

Ravana kidnapped her and took her away to Lanka and told her to marry him. Sita refused as she loved Lord Ram very much. Lord Ram (Rama) was very sad to find Sita missing when he got back to his hut in the forest.

Rama-Laxmana-and-Ravana

Rama vowed to get Sita back safe and started his search for Sita with the help of his brother Lakshmana, Hanuman (Monkey God) and his monkey God friends. With their help Rama travelled to Lanka and killed Ravana even though Ravana had several powers.

Tell your child:

Ravana = Rakshasa, Bad, Anger, Lies, Stealing, Hurting People, Hurting Woman

Rama = God, Good, Truth, Dharma (Righteousness), Friendly, Caring, Peaceful, Healthy, Happy

Do you know God is hiding inside every human being and every creature?

If you breathe deep while closing your eyes how do you feel? (Chant Om if you wish while your child does this). Introduction to mindfulness and meditation helps children relieve anxiety, stress and brings about clarity of thought, focus and expanded awareness / Creativity )

Do you know what happens when you get angry?

Tell your child that Ravana and his ten heads start growing inside. Ask the child how he / she feels when angry and screaming / throwing a tantrum.

Tell your child that every time they do something bad Ravana grows in them and this can make them feel very bad and cause bad things to happen to their body.

Explain the concept of Karma simply : If you do good , you get good. If you do bad, you get bad.

Then when they do something wrong like get angry/ tell a lie, tell them that they need to bring out Rama who is hiding in them to kill Ravana, by saying sorry and closing their eyes and praying / meditating.

Make this a ritual and these simple techniques can help you teach your child good manners using Indian mythology / Itihasas. It also helps you teach them basic concepts of Sanatana Dharma and that God resides in all beings and everyone must be treated kindly.

Only a very small portion of Ramayana is used in this post. You are advised to narrate or read the Ramayana in its entirety to your child.

You may use any God and Demon combination and story to help your child become self-aware and self-discipline himself / herself. Eg. Vishnu in Narasimha Avatar God and Hiranyakashipu Demon

Note: Dharma (Appropriate and correct way of conduct) and Karma are Indian concepts that have ensured harmonious coexistence of diverse religions peacefully for thousands of years.

Image Credits: ritsin.com