Thursday, August 30, 2007
Krishna Janmashtami (Devanagari कृष्ण जन्माष्टमी) , also known as "Krishnashtami", "Gokulashtami", "Srikrishna Jayanti", "Sree Jayanthi" or sometimes merely as "Janmashtami", is a Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Krishna, the eighth avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu.
When is Janmashtami?Janmashtami 2007 is on September 3rd/4th
Janmashtami celebrates the birth of one of the most famous Gods of Hindu religion, Bhagwan Krishna, on the eighth day (Ashtami) in the month of Sravana or Savana. Lord Sri Krishna was born on the 'Rohini' nakshatram (star). It is generally celebrated in the month of August-September according to the Christian Calendar. Legend has it that Sri Krishna was born on a dark, stormy and windy night to end the rule and atrocities of his maternal uncle, Kansa.
Position of Stars at the time of BirthIt was only on the eighth day of the second fortnight, in the month of Sravana when, the moon entered the house of Vrishabha in Rohini Nakshatra (star) that Lord appeared. According to Barhapatyamana, the month of Sravana corresponds to the month of Bhadrapada Krishnapaksha. Lord was born in the year of Visvavasu, appx. 5,227 years ago.
Celebrated for over Two DaysJanmashtami is celebrated for over two days as “Rohini” nakshatra and Ashtami may not fall on the same day. The first day known as Krishnashtami, as the birth of Bhagwan Krishna falls on the eighth day after Raksha Bandhan, which generally falls in the month of August. The second day is known as Kalashtami.
Welcome the Lord at Midnight
It is only at midnight between the first and the second day that birth of Sri Krishna took place. The actual festivities begin during midnight in this 48 hour period. The celebration reaches its peak at midnight, with the birth of Lord Krishna, with lot of hymns, arti taking place and blowing of the Conch (shankh), rocking the cradle of Lord. The idol of lord is bathed with Panchamrit (A mixture of milk, ghee, oil, honey and Gangajal). The Panchamrit is later distributed as Prasad to the devotees along with other sweets. While some Fast on the first day and break it at midnight for others the fasting continues for both days. The period coincides with rainy season.
Birth of Lord KrishnaJanmashtami is celebrated to welcome and enjoy Lord Krishna's birth. The birth of Lord Krishna took place when the various planets were in auspicious places. It is said that God chooses a particular time, as to when he will take birth as a human and the planetary systems are adjusted accordingly.
Auspicious Nakshatra (Constellation)
Around the time of Bhagwan Krishna's birth, Rohini Nakshatra was predominant as it is considered to be quite auspicious. This is so because it is under the supervision of Brahma, the creator of Universe. Sri Krishna was born in the month Of Sravana more than 5000 years ago.
Born in Dwapur Yug (Iron Age)
According to some scholars, Krishna was born on Wednesday,the eighth day of second fortnight in Sravana month in the year of Visvavasu around 3227 BC, also known as Dwapur Yug. July 19th 3228 BC to be more accurate. He lived for 125 years and disappeared on February 18th 3102 BC on the new moon night of Phalguna. His death was the onset of the current corrupt age known as Kaliyug.
Universal Happiness of all Forms of Life
From the time, Devki conceived Sri Krishna, she began to glow and exude divine light. The prison walls glowed with the aura of the new born infant. Atmosphere of peace and happiness prevailed all over, Forests were all green and full of trees with all kinds of beautiful flowers, rivers were all swollen due to joy, peacocks began to dance in sheer joy, people in all villages started being happy.
Objective of Krishna's BirthThe main objective of Lord Krishna's birth was to free Mother Earth from the wickedness of demons. Playing an important part in Mahabharata (legendary battle in Kurukshetra) and propagating the theory of bhakti and good karma were other important objectives.
Events Before The Birth of Sri Krishna
The people of Mathura were extremely unhappy with the wicked king Kansa who put his father, king Ugrasen in prison and declared himself the king of Mathura. It was to put an end to his evil ways and other demons that Lord Vishnu decided to take birth on Earth in human form. According to Akashvani (heavenly voice) at the wedding of his beloved sister Devki, Kansa got to know that the eighth child of his sister will take birth to kill him. So, in turn he rushed to kill his sister. Kansa gave up the idea of killing after being assured by Vasudev that he will handover all his children to him. He put them in Prison. Kansa killed all the six infants as soon as they were born. The seventh child (Balram) was saved due to divine intervention, when he was transferred from Devki's womb to that of Rohini's (other wife of Vasudev).
Events During the Birth of Lord Krishna
Lord Krishna was born in a prison cell in the captivity of King Kansa. He took birth in divine form with lotus like eyes,his palms bearing the signs of a lotus and discus. He had a swastika sign on his sole. Wearing a yellow colored silk cloth, adorned with precious diamond earrings and a crown made of emeralds. Soon after the birth, a chain of events astonished Vasudev,when he saw the gates of the cell flow open and all the guards fast asleep. He immediately thought of Nand ,his close friend in Gokul and decided to handover his child to him in order to save him from the clutch of Kansa.
River Yamuna Bows To The Feet of Sri KrishnaThe night of birth was witnessed by heavy rains which led to River Yamuna being in floods. As soon as the feet of Lord immersed in the river, the flow became normal and Yamuna made way for the Lord. Sheshnag, the serpent formed an umbrella to save the new born baby from rain.
Exchange of the BabiesVasudev kept his child next to fast asleep Yashoda and took the baby girl lying with him back to Mathura. The baby girl is believed to be the sister of Lord Vishnu.
Disappearance of The Divine ChildOn hearing the news of birth of the eighth child of Devki and Vasudev, Kansa rushed to the prison-cell and lifted the baby girl to kill her despite pleadings from Devki. However, instead of hitting the stone, the child flew up in the air and announced that the annihilator of Kansa was born and in safe hands.
Krishna later grew in Gokul and finally killed his maternal uncle, King Kansa.
Legend of Janmashtami
Janmashtami, one of the most popular festivals of Hindus celebrates the birth of their beloved God, Sri Krishna. Detailed story of Janmashtami or Lord Krishna's birth has been narrated in Puranas. Please read on to know more about the various fascinating aspects of the legend of Janmashtami as stated in Puranas.
Mathura, a prominent town of Northern India and the birth city of Sri Krishna was ruled by King Ugrasen, a Yaduvanshi ( Belonging to the Community of Yadavs). He was a great king loved by his subjects. He had two children, a son Kansa and a daughter Devki. Kansa was quite cruel by nature, his wickedness knew no bounds when he jailed his father and forcefully became the king of Mathura.
Love for sister Devki and Brother in law Vasudev
Though Kansa was hard hearted but he loved his sister immensely and married her off to Vasudev, one the high ranking officers in his army. However on the day of wedding, as a result of a heavenly prediction that Devki’s eighth child will be born to kill him, Kansa decided to kill his sister. On Vasudev's pleading, he put both of them in dungeons and let them live but with a promise that they will handover all their children to Kansa, only to be killed by him.
Birth of Balram
Kansa succeeded in killing all the six new born babies of Devki and Vasudev, however the seventh child was saved by divine intervention as the child was transferred from Devki’s womb to that of Rohini's, Vasudev's other wife. Thus Balram, the elder brother of Krishna was born but Kansa thought that Devki had a miscarriage.
Birth of KrishnaThe birth of the eighth child of Devki, Lord Krishna was followed by a chain of dramatic events. Soon after the birth of the child, as if by a sheer miracle, all the soldiers guarding the couple fell asleep and the gates of the dungeon flew open themselves. Vasudev decided to smuggle the child safely in a basket to his friend Nand in Gokul. Since it was raining heavily, River Yamuna was all swollen and Vasudev feared that both he as well as his child will drown if he tried to cross it, however, as soon as the feet of the infant touched the river, the flow of water became normal and Vasudev was able to cross it easily. Sheshnag, the five headed serpent of Lord Vishnu protected the child with its fangs. Vasudev knew that his was not an ordinary child but a divine being. After handing his child, to his dear friend, Nand, Vasudev returned back safely with a girl child and no one got to know about it.
Yogmaya’s predictionOn hearing the news of the eighth born child, Kansa rushed to kill the girl. He paid no heed to Devki’s plead of sparing the girl. He held the child by her legs and just as he was about to bang her against the wall, the girl vanished into thin air and told Kansa that his slayer had been born and was safe in Gokul. The girl child was none other than Yogmaya (divine illusion). The eighth child grew up as Yashoda and Nand’s son in Gokul and later killed his maternal uncle Kansa, freeing all the people of Mathura from his tyranny
Legend of King KansaKansa was the king of Mathura city and maternal uncle of Sri Krishna. According to legend, Janmashtami is celebrated as the birth of Bhagwan Krishna, an avatar of Lord Vishnu to slay the cruel king . Kansa was a self-proclaimed King of the city of Mathura (A City in Northern India). He overthrew his father, King Ugrasen and forcefully became the king. He was very wicked and evil in thinking. His subjects feared him, the cowherds of not only Mathura but also other neighbouring villages like Gokul, Barsana, Nandgaon were the victims of his wickedness. They had no option but to surrender to his tyrannical ways.
Army of DemonsKing Kansa had an army of demons who helped him spread fear and accomplish his evil tasks. Putana, Bakasura, Aghasura were his close aides.
Loving BrotherKansa loved his younger sister Devki and fulfilled all her wishes. He married her to Vasudev, one of his cousins and a high-ranking officer in the army with great pomp and show. However, during the wedding ceremony of his sister, Devki, the love for his sister turned to hatred when a heavenly prediction warned him, that the eighth child of Devki will be the annihilator Of Kansa. On being assured of getting all the new born children of Devki and Vasudev, Kansa decided to imprison them under close supervision and let them live.
Killing of InfantsKansa managed to kill all the new born of his sister Devki and brother-In-Law, Vasudev. His elder brother Balram, seventh child of the couple, was saved by being transferred to Rohini's womb. Similarly Lord Krishna, the eighth child, born to kill evil Kansa was saved after being miraculously shifted to Gokul on the night of his birth and replaced with a female child. However, Kansa got to know that his destroyer had been born and was being brought up by an unknown family in a neighboring village.
Ongoing Efforts to Kill the ChildSoon, after getting to know that the eighth child of his sister was born and safely growing in another village, Kansa ordered his soldiers to kill all the one-day old male infants in and around Mathura. He made quite a few unsuccessful attempts to kill the child.
Episode of Putana-The DemonessKing Kansa, sent one of his reliable servants to kill on the infants in the village by feeding them poisonous milk. She killed many infants but in the end she was killed by baby Krishna who sucked her life while being fed poisonous milk.
Killing of Demon Trinivarta
On hearing the death of Putana, King Kansa, sent his another servant- demon Trinivarta to kill Sri Krishna. Trinivarta took the form of a whirlwind, and carried the young Krishna away with itself, in the hope of throwing him away. Lord Krishna increased his weight which made the demon unable to move any further. After some time, the weight of Lord Krishna became too heavy for the demon to handle, so he fell on Ground and died.
End of BakasuraAt the instigation of Kansa, his friend Bakasura, changed his form to that of a crane,and went to kill Young Krishna, He hit him with his beak but Lord caught hold of his beak and tore it apart, killing him instantly.
Slaying of King KansaKing Kansa, tired of the killing of all his servants, invited both his nephews, Balram and Krishna for a wrestling match in Mathura. He made use of elephant Kuvalyapeeda to kill Krishna at the entrance of the arena, Krishna killed him followed by killings of Charuna and Toshalaka- chosen atheletes of Kansa. Krishna went to Kansa, took him by hair and threw him on the ground; finally killing him. The slaying Of Kansa ended his tyrannical rule and people rejoiced and celebrated his death.
Legend of Putana
The legend Of Janmashtami- Birth of Bhagwan Krishna, has it that Lord Vishnu took birth as a human to annihilate demons and rid Mother Earth of their monstrosity.
Reliable Aide of King KansaA heavenly prediction forewarned King Kansa that the eighth child of his sister Devki will be responsible for his death. So he decided to get rid of the child and entrusted the work to one of his reliable aides, Putana- A Demoness.
Demoness Disguised as Human
As per the instructions of King Kansa, Demoness Putana disguised herself as a beautiful woman. Having applied poison on her chest she went from house to house in various towns and villages, feeding all the one day old male infants and killing them.
Suckling Life of The Demoness
Demoness Putana entered the house of Baba Nand and saw the divine child,lying in the cradle. She took the child outside and started to feed him in the vain hope of killing him. Lord Krishna sucked her Breast embalmed with poison. Putana was happy the child was sucking poison and will die soon; little did she realise that God was sucking her life. The Lord, pressed her breasts with his hands and sucked her last breath. The demoness shrieked in pain,met her fate with her eyes popping out simultaneously.
Rituals and Customs of JanmashtamiJanmashtami festival witnesses many interesting customs and rituals in various states and cities of India. While some rituals are common to all, others are unique and restricted to a particular region or city. These customs and rituals are followed religiously by all the Lord Krishna devotees year after year.
Rituals and Customs Observed during Janmashtami
Fasting: The most common ritual observed all over during Janmashtami is fasting by devotees on the day of the festival. Devotees fast for the entire day and break it after the birth of Lord Krishna at midnight. People prefer to have only milk and milk products as they were the favourite of Lord Krishna. Some devotees of Lord Krishna go to the extent of keeping 'Nirjal' fast- It involves fasting without having a single drop of water. There are other ardent followers , who keep the fast for two days in the honour of Lord Krishna.
Chanting: Devotees indulge in continuous chanting all day long. They chant mantras and shlokas to please the lord. Religious atmosphere prevails everywhere. Devotees highlight his feats and his divine characteristics. Chanting of 108 names of Lord Krishna is another ritual that takes place in various temples. Chanting of names is accompanied by showering of flowers on the idol of Lord Krishna.
Devotional Songs and dances
Another popular ritual is singing of songs (bhajans) in the praise of Lord Krishna. Bhajans are an important custom of the midnight celebration during the festival. Dances are also performed by devotees depicting the various events of Lord Krishna.
Staging of Plays or Dramas of Lord Krishna
Plays depicting various events and accomplishments of Lord Krishna during his lifetime is another important custom during the festival. Both professional artists as well as amateurs stage plays at various places that are widely attended by devotees.
Preparation of Sweets
According to legend, Lord Krishna was very fond of milk and milk products like butter and buttermilk. He was also fond of Sweets like Kheer, Pedhas etc. Therefore devotees all over make sweets during the festival to please the Lord.
Rituals in South India during Janmashtami
The houses in South India are beautifully decorated by women on Janmashtami. Various sweet meals are prepared and offered to the Lord. Butter, one of the favourite dishes of Lord Krishna is offered to please him in almost every house. The entire house right from the door to the temple is marked with the footprints of a child. Mixture of water and flour is used to make footprints. This custom creates a feeling of joy among the people as they feel Lord himself has blessed them by entering their homes. The day is marked with the ritual of chanting of the holy Bhagavatam, accompanied by singing of devotional songs and dances.
Ritual in Gujarat
Gujarat witnesses a very peculiar as well as an interesting ritual by the womenfolk during Janmashtami. Women give up all the household chores like cooking and cleaning etc. to play cards. This is an age old tradition. Women doing mind placing bets during the card session. The exact history of this peculiar tradition during Janmashtami is unknown but according to sociologists, this custom may have begun as a pass-time for women in the joint family system. Fasting all day long, the women played cards to kill time as well as keep them awake the entire night. It is said that women eat cold food prepared two days in advance.
Celebrated to mark the birth of Lord Sri Krishna, the festival of Janmashtami is a popular event in India and many other countries across the world. Devotees of Lord Krishna solemnise the festival with lot of joy and enthusiasm. All efforts are made to give the festival an extremely decorative look.
Festivity for over Two Days
Janmashtami festivities continue for two days and reach its peak at midnight of the first day. This is the time when Lord Krishna is said to have been born. The blessed event marking Bhagwan Krishna’s birth is celebrated with zeal in different states of India. Mathura, the birthplace of Lord is particulary famous for its grand celebrations. Janmashtami is also celebrated with verve in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
Celebrated with Splendour
Sri Krishnashtami is celebrated with lot of pomp and show. During the midnight celebration, lord's idol is bathed with Panchamrit and then the cradle is rocked. Devotees fast all day long and break it after the birth of Bhagwan Krishna at midnight. Songs and hymns are sung by people accompanied by dancing in praise of their favourite 'Makhan Chor'. Aarti is performed by blowing conch and ringing of bells. Elaborate Pooja (Prayer) and ceremonies are held in the honour of Bhagwan. Prasad is distributed among devotees after the birth ceremony.
Environment of Euphoria and Glee
Janmashtami creates an environment of happiness and joy among the devotees. With loads of ongoing fun activities, people are lost in the joy of divine songs and dances performed in praise of Lord. Colorful Rasleela (plays) are performed by devotees depicting significant phases and acts of Lord's life.
Janmashtami Special Dishes
As Lord Krishna was very fond of sweets, milk and other milk products like butter and buttermilk, so his devotees make sweets of these products to commemorate the occasion. Sweets like Doodhachi Kheer, Pedha, Gopalkala or Gulabjamun are the major dishes prepared on Krishnashtami. Besides, Shrikhand and Singhare ki Poori are also made in households. Eatables like Murukku and Seeddai are popular in the Southern State of Tamil Nadu.
Jhulanotsava and Ghata Celebrations
A common feature of Janmashtami in North India, especially Mathura is 'Jhulanotsava'. In this, Jhulas (swings) are hung in the courtyards of temples and houses in honour of the Lord. Another distinguishing feature of Janmashtami festival celebrations is 'Ghatas'. This is a month long programme wherein a particular colour is selected as a theme and the entire temple is adorned with the same colour. The idol of God is also adorned with clothes of the same colour.
Dahi Handi, Raslila, Jhankis
Celebration of Sri Krishna's birth will be incomplete without Raslila (Dance Drama). In this extremely popular and joyful drama, incidents from Sri Krishna's life are enacted in form of dance. In a good performance devotees are virtually transformed into the time and age of Lord Krishna. The experience is absolutely mesmerizing.
The ritual of Dahi Handi is carried out with much fanfare and joy. Human pyramid is formed to break the Handi (Earthen Pot) suspended from top with the help of a rope. The exciting process involves throwing water by the onlookers to prevent the boys from breaking the earthen pot. Dahi Handi ritual is most popularly celebrated in Mumbai.
Jhankis (tableaux) are cribs and other decorations depicting the entire life of Lord Krishna right from the time of his birth. Various jhankis include bith of Lord Krishna in jail, Vasudev,father of Lord Krishna taking out of the jail to his friend Nand, River Yamuna in floods finally bowing to the feet of Lord and making way,Exchange of Lord with the baby girl etc.
Janmashtami is celebrated with fervor all over India and with the spread of Hinduism,it is celebrated with similar emotion all across the globe.
The word for fasting i.e. Upavasa, means to move near to the Supreme and to overcome helplessness. The practice of fasting, could have originated as part of the offering that one could give God for getting a boon fulfilled. The festival of Janmashtami is characterised with keeping fast by devotees.
Nirjal Fast or Upavasa for Lord Krishna
Ardent followers of Lord Krishna celebrate Janmashtami by keeping 'Nirjal' fasts. This kind of fasting involves not having even a single drop of water during the entire day. People feel keeping nirjal or waterless fasts will help them get closer to God. Devotees also keep 'Phalahar Vrat' having milk and fruits during the fast. Devotees observe strict discipline while fasting. They refrain from having cereals and salt on the day of the festival . They also feel keeping such fast is the only thing that they can offer God. Fasting is accompanied by singing of devotional songs and mantra chanting.
Popular Dishes made during Janmashtami Fast
Devotees make various dishes during the fast. They have milk and milk products during the fast. This because Lord Krishna was particularly fond of milk and butter. Sweet dishes are also made and had during janmashtami fast. Kheer, Pedhas are popular sweets that devotees have. People do not include salt in their meals during the fast. Devotees fasting on janmashtami break the fast at midnight after the birth of Lord Krishna. They break their fast with Prasad of the Lord.
However with changing times, and even children keeping fasts in the current scenario, the stringent rituals of fasting have been done away with. Sendha namak (salt of a special kind used during fasting) is now allowed during the fast.
One of the most important aspects of the festival Janmashtami is Rasleela. Rasleela is a divine sport (Kreeda), which Sri krishna played with his gopis on the banks of river Yamuna in Vrindavan. Radha was the most important gopi and closest to the Lord. Her love for Lord Krishna was complete and in its purest form. Sri Krishna was ten years old when he performed Rasleela. Rasleelas are particularly performed in the city of Vrindavan.
According to Bhagavata Puran, Lord Krishna was loved immensely by gopis. The love gopis felt for Lord was not carnal,it was prerna (Divine love).The love for Sri Krishna was so strong that gopis forgot all about their worldly chores. The gopis were totally merged in the love of god through the practice of constant smaran (remembrance).
Performance of Rasleela
Lord Krishna promised gopis that he will dance with all of them. So Bhagwan Krishna stood in the centre suurounded by gopis who danced and sang in the glory of Lord. Sometimes Sri Krishna would put his arms around the neck of gopis and all of them would dance together. All the demigods, like Gandharva, Yakshas were witness of the divine dance, as they threw flowers from the sky, giving their blessings. The gopis would rejoice with sheer bliss in the company of the lord and consider themselves fortunate
Disappearance of God during Rasleela.Dancing almost every full moon night during autumn made the gopis conceited. They started considering themselves superior to other women who were not fortunate enough to be with Lord Krishna. One night during Rasleela, lord Krishna did the disappearing act to teach them a lesson of humility. Not finding Krishna amongst them, the gopis started feeling the agony of desertion. Overwhelmed with grief, they started searching for God and prayed him to come back. During their search for Lord they sang songs popularly known as Gopika Gitam. Lord returned after many pleadings.
Rasleela in its present form
In the current age, Rasleela is performed only by Brahmin boys between the age of 10-13 years. The main theme of rasleela revolves around the formative years of Lord Krishna. There are five main raslilas performed like janamleela- details regarding the birth of Lord Krishna, Shankarleela, Putanaleela- Killing of demoness Putana, And Nagleela- killing of the dreaded serpent Kaliya . They are performed by professional troupes with utmost devotion and love. The troupe captivates the audience with their performance. Rasleelas are usually performed in the local language, Brajbhasa, which is somewhat similar to Hindi language and therefore easy to understand. At the end of the performance, devotees throng to touch the feet of the young boy dressed as Lord Krishna. The young boy ceases to be human for the devotees and becomes a divine being during the festival.
Rasleelas are performed by various renowned theater groups, plays are stages with celebrities playing the lead roles to mark the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna.
Beautiful festival of Janmashtami commemorates the birth of Lord Krishna. Devotees of Lord Krishna celebrate this joyous occasion with devotion and enthusiasm. All over India, people observe fast, visit Krishna temples and participate in other religious activities organized on the day. Children have lots of fun Janmashtami as they decorate tableaux depicting various episodes of Lord Krishna's life. During the evening people exchange Janmashtami greetings with their loved ones and pray for Krishna's blessings in their life
Janmashtami is one of the most popular festivals of Hindus. It is celebrated to mark the birth of Lord Krishna. Devotees have taken to sending cards to wish their near and dear ones. Cards bearing beautiful pictures of Lord Krishna are very popular among devotees. These paper cards can later be framed and used as religious posters and pictures. These cards can be an ideal way to spread the glory of Lord Krishna; they help to reflect the religious sentiments of devotees
Janmashtami paper cards are popular but with technological advancement, e cards have replaced paper cards as a cheaper, time saving and a more accessible option. Animated e cards depicting various leelas of Krishna are becoming popular because they spread his eminence.
Sending a card with personal message is the perfect way to let your loved ones know how much you care for them.
Janmashtami is a festival celebrated with lot of enthusiasm and joy. It creates a euphoric atmosphere all around. Since Lord Krishna was very fond of milk and milk products, so devotees make various dishes of milk to please the Lord.
Devotees observe to mark the day and break it at midnight after the birth of Lord Krishna. Certain people observe the day with waterless fast while others have fruits and milk.
The traditional dishes prepared on Janmashtami are Singhare ki Poori, Shrikhand, Gopalkala, Kheer etc. Recipes of these mouth watering and easy to cook dishes are given below:
• Singhare ki Poori
• Til ki Kheer (Sesame Pudding)
• Aloo/Arwi ki Chaat
Janmashtami Special Recipes
Janmashtami Gift Ideas
Janmashtami is not a mere festival, it is a time to rejoice in the glory of Bhagwan Krishna and remember his achievements. It is a time to share the teachings of Krishna with fellow men, a time to bow and give in to the Lord's wishes and desires. The festival is also a time for gifting your near and dear ones. It is an appropriate way to convey your feelings to your friends and relatives, a time to show respect and care to your elders
Beautiful Janmashtami gifts can vary from Lord Krishna Idols and sculptures to gift hampers, from pooja accessories to dry fruits. The holy gita containing teachings of Lord Krishna is also a popular gift during the festival. It will surely brighten up the day of not only your friends but also your elders.
Janmashtami is a time for communion celebration, temples are extravagantly decorated and brightly lit. It is the perfect time to donate pooja accessories to various temples and other religious associations.
Brighten the day of your close ones with meaningful and innovative gift options.
• Dry Fruits
• Pooja accessories
• Krishna Idols and Sculptures
• Janmashtami Gift Hampers
The teachings of Lord Krishna have been written down in a book famously known as 'Bhagwad Gita'. It is the holy book of Hindus. It is to Hindus, what Bible is to Christians or what the holy Quran is to Muslims. Since the book is quite big and extensive, sometimes it becomes difficult for a person to read at a stretch. Geeta Saar is the gist of the main teachings of Lord Krishna. It contains the crux of the Holy Gita.
Lord questions everyone over various issues and asks them to give up the illusionary world. Bhagwan Krishna says, the only way to achieve life long happiness is to surrender to him.
• Why do you worry unnecessarily? What are you afraid of? Who can kill destroy you? A soul is never born, so it never dies.
• Whatever happened in the past, happened for the best; whatever is happening, is happening for the best; whatever will happen in future, will happen for the best. Do not repent the past, do not worry for future, concentrate on your present.
• What did you own, that makes you cry on losing? What did you bring, that you fear losing? What did you give birth to, that you fear its destruction? You didn't bring anything. Whatever one takes, one must return it to God. Everyone came empty handed and will therefore die, empty handed.
• Whatever belongs to you today, belonged to someone else yesterday and it will belong to some one else tomorrow. Don't be illusioned by maya. Maya is the root cause of all pain and misery.
• Change is the rule of nature. What one understands, as death is actually life itself. One moment you are the owner of crores and in the very next moment you become a pauper.
• Your body doesn't belong to you and vice versa. Body is composed of five elements- Fire, Water, Air, Earth and Sky; one day it will perish in these elements.
• Offer yourself to the Almighty Lord. This is the best support. One who knows this unconditional support gains freedom from fear, worry and despair.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Raksha Bandhan (the bond of protection in Hindi) or Rakhi (राखी in Devanāgarī) is a Hindu festival and also Sikh festival, which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters. It is celebrated on the full moon of the month of Shraavana and in 2007 it falls on August 28.
The festival is marked by the tying of a rakhi, or holy thread by the sister on the wrist of her brother. The brother in return offers a gift to his sister and vows to look after her. The brother and sister traditionally feed each other sweets. It is still celebrated today, and the brother and sister have to treat each other well for the day.
It is not necessary that the rakhi can be given only to a brother by birth; any male can be "adopted" as a brother by tying a rakhi on the person, that is "blood brothers and sisters", whether they are cousins or a good friend. Indian history is replete with women asking for protection, through rakhi, from men who were neither their brothers, nor Hindus themselves. Rani Karnavati of Chittor sent a rakhi to the Mughal Emperor Humayun when she was threatened by Bahadur Shah of Mewar. Humayun abandoned an ongoing military campaign to ride to her rescue.
The rakhi may also be tied on other special occasions to show solidarity and kinship (not necessarily only among brothers and sisters), as was done during the Indian independence movement.
Origins:-The origin of the festival is mostly attributed to one of following mythological incidents:
1. Indra's fight with Vritra - Indra, the king of devtas (gods), had lost his kingdom to the asura (demon) Vritra. At the behest of his Guru Brihaspati, Indra's wife Sachi tied a thread around her husband's wrist to ensure his victory in the upcoming duel.
2. Draupadi and Krishna during the Rajsuya yagya - After Shishupal's death, Krishna was left with a bleeding finger. Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, had torn a strip of silk off her sari and tied it around Krishna's wrist to staunch the flow of blood. Touched by her concern, Krishna had declared himself bound to her by her love. He further promised to repay the debt manifold. Many years later when Draupudi was about to be shamed by being disrobed in front of the whole court by her evil brother-in-law Duryodhana, she called on Krishna to help her, and he did by divinely elongating her sari so it could not be removed.
Rani Karnawati and Emperor Humayun:-One of the earliest origins of Raksha Bandhan in documented history can be traced to the medieval era. During this period the Rajputs were fighting Muslim invasions. Rakhi at that time was a spiritual symbol associated with protection of the sister. History has it that when Queen Karnawati the widow of the then King of Chittor realised that she could in no way defend the invasion of the Sultan of Gujarat, Bahadur Shah, she sent a rakhi to Emperor Humayun. The Emperor touched by the gesture, accepted the rakhi thereby accepting Queen Karnawati as a "sister" and immediately started off with his vast troops to protect Queen Karnavati.
Alexander The Great and King Puru:-
One of the oldest legendary references to the festival of Rakhi goes back to 300 B.C. At this time Alexander the Great, was invading India. Alexander was shaken by the fury of the Indian king Puru in his first attempt. Upset by this, Alexander's wife, who had heard of the Rakhi festival, approached King Puru. King Puru accepted her as his sister and when the opportunity came during the war, he refrained from fighting Alexander. In the war, when Alexander fell from his chariot and King Puru was about to slay him, King Puru saw the rakhi on his wrist and he drew his sword back.
The History of Raksha bandhan:
There are many references to the significance of the Rakhi festival in Vaishnava Theology.
The origin of this festival is usually traced back to the historical incidents of Indra's fight with Vritra-Indra that resulted in Indra's loss. Then, his wife had tied a thread around his wrist and empowered it with divine powers to make sure Indra emerged victorious in the duel that followed.
Krishna and Draupadi:-
Another incident is the one that concerns Krishna and Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas. She had torn a strip of silk off her sari and tied it around Krishna's wrist to stop the flow of blood Krishna was so touched by her action that he found himself bound to her by love. He promised to repay the debt and then spent the next 25 years doing just that. Draupadi in spite of being married to 5 great warriors and being a daughter of a powerful monarch only trusted and depended wholly on Krishna.
King Bali and Goddess Laxmi:-According to another legend the Demon King Bali was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu had taken up the task to guard his kingdom leaving his own abode in Vaikunth. Goddess Lakshmi wished to be with her lord back in her abode. She went to Bali disguised as a Brahmin woman to seek refuge till her husband came back.
During the Shravan Purnima celebrations, Lakshmi tied the sacred thread to the King. Upon being asked she revealed who she was and why she was there. The king was touched by her goodwill for his family and her purpose and requested the Lord to accompany her. He sacrificed all he had for the Lord and his devoted wife.
Thus the festival is also called Baleva that is Bali Raja's devotion to the Lord. It is said that since then it has been a tradition to invite sisters in Shravan Purnima for the thread tying ceremony or the Raksha Bandhan
Yama and the Yamuna:-According to another legend, Raksha Bandhan was a ritual followed by Lord Yama (the Lord of Death) and his sister Yamuna. Yamuna tied rakhi to Yama and bestowed immortality. Yama was so moved by the serenity of the occasion that he declared that whoever gets a rakhi tied from his sister and promised her protection will become immortal.
Raksha Bandhan celebrations in India:-While Rakhsa Bandhan is celebrated all over the country, different parts of the country mark the day in different ways. These celebrations happen to fall on the same day, and may not have anything to do with Raksha Bandhan itself or Rakhi.
Tying of rakhi:-Perhaps the single most important way of celebrating Raksha Bandhan is by tying the rakhi. A sister ties a rakhi to the wrist of her brother. The tying of a rakhi signifies her asking of her brother for his protection and love for the sister. The brother in turn, accepts the rakhi, confirms his love and affection for his sister and shows this with gifts and money. It is a family event where all members of family, dressed in finery, gather and celebrate. The tying of rakhi is followed by a family feast.
Rakhi Purnima:-Rakhi is celebrated as Rakhi Purnima in North India as well as in parts of Northwest India. The word "Purnima" means a full moon night.
Nariyal Purnima:-In western India and parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa and Karnataka, this day is celebrated as Nariyal Purnima. On this day an offering of a coconut (nariyal) is made to the sea, as a mark of respect to Lord Varuna, the God of the Sea. Nariyal Purnima marks the beginning of the fishing season and the fisherman, who depend on the sea for a living, make an offering to Lord Varuna so that they can reap bountiful fish from the sea.
Avani Avittam or Upakarman:-In southern parts of India including Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Orissa, this day is celebrated by the Brahmin community as Avani Avittam. This day is the traditional day of the beginning of Vedic studies. As part of the Upakarman ritual, they also change their sacred thread or yajnopavitam, the Sanskrit word for the thread. It is also called "janeyu" in Hindi, "poonool" in Tamil, "poveeth" in Bengali, and "jhanjyam" in Telugu.
Kajari Purnima:-In central parts of India such as Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Jharkand and Bihar this day is celebrated as Kajari Purnima. It is an important day for the farmers and women blessed with a son. On the ninth day after Shravana Amavasya, the preparations of the Kajari festival start. This ninth day is called Kajari Navami and varied rituals are performed by women who have sons until Kajri Purnima or the full moon day.
Pavitropana:-In parts of Gujarat, this day is celebrated as Pavitropana. On this day people perform the grand pooja or the worship of Lord Shiva. It is the culmination of the prayers done through out the year.
CONCLUSION:-Any Indian festival is incomplete without the typical Indian festivities, the gatherings, celebrations, exchange of sweets and gifts, lots of noise, singing and dancing. Festivals are the celebration of togetherness the celebrations of being on of the family. Festival of Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan is one such major occasion.
It is the celebration of brothers and sisters. It is one festival that primarily belongs to the North and Western regions of India but celebrated throughout the country with the same verve. Regional celebrations may be different but Raksha bandhan has become an integral part of those customs
As per the traditions, the sister on this day prepares the pooja thali with diya, roli, chawal and rakhis. She worships the deities, ties Rakhi to the brother(s) and wishes for their well being. The brother in turn acknowledges the love with a promise to be by the sisters' side through the thick and thin and gives her a token gift.
The festival has been celebrated in the same way with the same traditions for centuries. Only the means have changed with the changing lifestyles. This too to make the celebrations more elaborate.
This is the day that still pulls the siblings together. The increasing physical distances evoke the desire to be together even more. They try to reach out to each other on the Raksha Bandhan day. The joyous meeting, the rare family get-together, that erstwhile feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood calls for a massive celebration.
The sisters tie that thread of love to their brothers amongst chanting of mantras, put roli and rice on his forehead and pray for his well being. She bestows him with gifts and blessings. The brother also wishes her a good life and pledges to take care of her. He gives her a return gift. The gift is the physical acceptance of her love, reminder of their togetherness and a symbol of his pledge. The legends and the reference in history repeated, the significance of the festival is emphasized.
Well that is kind of an end to the rituals but the celebrations actually start after that. For the parents, it is a family reunion. Tasty dishes, wonderful sweets, exchange of gifts and sharing of past experiences.
For those who are not able to visit each other, rakhi cards and e rakhis and rakhis through mails perform the part of communicating the rakhi messages. Hand made rakhis and self-made rakhi cards are just a representation of the personal feelings of the siblings.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Hinduism as a religion is many-sided yet bound by a common search for Truth and to Hindus it means a way of life and a fellowship of faiths. With the advent of the Aryans, it originated as a simple form of worship of the forces of Nature, drawing in its system action in social organisations, local cults, deities diverse beliefs and modes of worship.
Nāga Panchamī is a Hindu festival celebrated by Hindus in most parts of India. It is celebrated on Panchami in Shravan month. On this day, they worship Nāga Devata(Cobras). Cobras are considered divine in Hindu mythology. People go to temples and snake pits and they worship the snakes. They offer milk and silver jewelry to the Cobras to protect them from all evils. They also fast. This festival is to celebrate the day Lord Krishna defeated the serpent Kalia.
The festival of Nāga Panchami is celebrated by Hindus to pay respect to Nāgas. The five Nāgas worshipped on Nag Panchami are Ananta, Vāsuki, Taxak, Karkotaka and Pingala. According to a Puranic myth Brahma’s son Kashyapa had four wives. Kashyapa’s first wife gave birth to Devas, second to Garudas, third to Nāgas and fourth to Daityas. (Dainik Jagran, 25 July 2006). The third wife of Kashpa was called Kadroo, who gave birth to Nāgas. So Nāgas are also known as Kadroojā. They were the rulers of Pātāl-Loka.
Nag-Panchami is an important all-India festival and is celebrated on the fifth day of the moonlit-fortnight in the month of Shravan (July /August). This is the time when serpents invariably come out of their holes that get inundated with rain-water to seek shelter in gardens and many times in houses. As such they pose a great danger to man. May be therefore, snakes are worshiped on this day. Right from the times when mankind started acquiring some sort of culture, Sun and Snake have been invoked with prayers and ritual worship in most of the countries. In India even before the Vedic times, the tradition of snake-worship was in vogue.
In ancient India, there lived a clan by the name of "NAGAS" whose culture was highly developed. The Indus Valley civilisation of 3000 B.C. gives ample proof of the popularity of snake-worship amongst the Nagas, whose culture was fairly wide-spread in India even before the Aryans came. After the Naga culture got incorporated into Hinduism, the Indo-Aryans themselves accepted many of the snake deities of the Nagas in their pantheon and some of them even enjoyed a pride of place in the Puranic Hinduism. The prominent Cobra snakes mentioned in the Puranas are Anant, Vasuki, Shesh, Padma, Kanwal, Karkotak, Kalia, Aswatar, Takshak, Sankhpal, Dhritarashtra and Pingal. Some historians state that these were not snakes but Naga Kings of various regions with immerse power.
The thousand-headed Shesh Nag who symbolises Eternity is the couch of Lord Vishnu. It is on this couch that the Lord reclines between the time of the dissolution of one Universe and creation of another. Hindus believe in the immortality of the snake because of its habit of sloughing its skin. As such Eternity in Hinduism is often represented by a serpent eating its own tail.
In Jainism and Buddhism snake is regarded as sacred having divine qualities. It is believed that a Cobra snake saved the life of Buddha and another protected the Jain Muni Parshwanath. To-day as an evidence of this belief, we find a huge serpent carved above the head of the statue of Muni Parshwanath. In medieval India figures of snakes were carved or painted on the walls of many Hindu temples. In the carves at Ajanta images of the rituals of snake worship are found. Kautilya, in his "Arthashastra" has given detailed description of the cobra snakes.
Fascinating, frightening, sleek and virtually death-less, the cobra snake has always held a peculiar charm of its own since the time when man and snake confronted each other. As the cobra unfolded its qualities, extra-ordinary legends grew around it enveloping it in the garble of divinity. Most of these legends are in relation with Lord Vishnu, Shiv and Subramanyam.
The most popular legend is about Lord Krishna when he was just a young boy. When playing the game of throwing the ball with his cowherd friends, the legend goes to tell how the ball fell into Yamuna river and how Krishna vanquished Kalia Serpent and saved the people from drinking the poisonous water by forcing Kalia to go away.
It is an age-old religious belief that serpents are loved and blessed by Lord Shiv. May be therefore, he always wears them as ornamentation around his neck. Most of the festivals that fall in the month of Shravan are celebrated in honour of Lord Shiv, whose blessings are sought by devotees, and along with the Lord, snakes are also worshiped. Particularly on the Nag-Panchami day live cobras or their pictures are revered and religious rights are performed to seek their good will. To seek immunity from snake bites, they are bathed with milk, haldi-kumkum is sprinkled on their heads and milk and rice are offered as "naivedya". The Brahmin who is called to do the religious ritual is given "dakshina" in silver or gold coins some times, even a cow is given away as gift.
In Bengal and parts of Assam and Orissa the blessings of Mansa, the queen of serpents are sought by offering her all the religious adoration. Protection from the harmful influence of snakes is sought through the worship of Mansa who rules supreme over the entire clan of serpents. On this occasion snake-charmers are also requisitioned to invoke the Snake Queen by playing lilting and melodious tunes on their flutes.
In Punjab Nag-Panchami is known by the name of "Guga-Navami". A huge snake is shaped from dough, which is kneaded from the contribution of flour and butter from every household. The dough-snake is then placed on a winnowing basket and taken round the village in a colourful procession in which women and children sing and dance and onlookers shower flowers. When the procession reaches the main square of the village all the religious rites are performed to invoke the blessings of the snake god and then the dough snake is ceremoniously buried.
In Maharashtra, Hindu women take an early bath wear their "nav-vari" - nine yards-sarees, put on ornaments and get ready for the "puja" of Nag-Devata. Snake charmers are seen sitting by the roadsides or moving about from one place to another with their baskets that hold dangerous snakes that are their pets. While playing the lingering melodious notes on their flutes, they beckon devotees with their calls -"Nagoba-la dudh de Mayi" (give milk to the Cobra Oh Mother!) On hearing that call, women come out of their houses and then the snake-charmers take out of the snakes from their baskets. Women sprinkle haldi-kumkum and flowers on the heads of the snakes and offer sweetened milk to the snakes and pray. Cash and old clothes are also given to the snake-charmers. Bowls of milk are also placed at the places which are likely haunts of the snakes.
Elderly women draw pictures of five-headed cobras on wooden planks, recite mantras and pray. The daughters wash the eyes of their fathers with rose flowers dipped in milk and then receive gifts from their fathers. In Hindu homes frying any thing on this day is forbidden by tradition.
The most fantastic celebrations of Nag-Panchami are seen in the village of Baltis Shirale which is 70 Kilometres from Sangli and 400 Kilometres from Mumbai. There people pray to live cobras that they catch on the eve of this pre-harvest festival. About a week before this festival, dig out live snakes from holes and keep them in covered earthen pots and these snakes are fed with rats and milk. Their poison-containing fangs are not removed because the people of this village believe that to hurt the snakes is sacrilegious. Yet it is amazing that these venomous cobras do not bite instead protect their prospective worshipers.
On the day of the actual festival the people accompanied by youngsters, dancing to the tune of musical band carry the pots on their heads in a long procession to the sacred-temple of goddess Amba and after the ritual worship the snakes are taken out from the pots and set free in the temple courtyard. Then every cobra is made to raise its head by swinging a white-painted bowl, filled with pebbles in front. The Pandit sprinkles haldi-kumkum and flowers on their raised heads. After the puja they are offered plenty of milk and honey.
After all the obeisance is rendered to the goddess and the ritual puja is over, the snakes are put back in the pots and carried in bullock-carts in procession through the 32 hamlets of Shirala village where women eagerly await outside their houses for "darshan" of the sacred cobras. One or two cobras are let loose in front of each house where men and women offer prayers, sprinkle puffed rice, flowers and coins over them, burn camphor and agarbattis and perform "aarti" . Girls of marriageable age regard the cobras as blessings of good luck in marriage. Some courageous girls even put their faces near the cobra's dangerous fangs. Behold the wonder the cobras do not bite them!
Director of the Madras Snake Park thoroughly examined these cobras and confirmed that neither the fangs nor the poison had been extracted. This truly is something so wonderful that it cannot be possibly explained by man's rational thinking.
In the evening the open space adjoining the temple of Amba holds a popular fair. Pots containing the cobras are placed on an erected platform and the lids are removed. The cobras raise their heads and spectators look on spell-bound. Vast crowds arrive from Kolhapur, Sanghli, Poona and even from foreign lands to see this wonderful spectacle and enjoy in the fair. The following day the snakes are released in the jungle.
There is one popular legend telling how this festival started. Once Guru Gorakhnath while passing through his village saw a woman praying before a clay-cobra idol. He turned it into a living snake and told her not to be afraid of snakes. Since then this Baltis Shirale and its neighbouring regions worship snakes. Guru Gorakhnath's temple is on a nearby hillock.
Tribals in the interior parts of Maharashtra perform acrobatics and magic shows on the streets. Crowds collect around them to see and touch the snakes which the tribals bring in their baskets to show them off.
There are snake-temples in our country with idols of snake-gods. In these temples cobras are also reared and live snakes are worshipped on Nag-Panchami day.
The Snake and the Farmer
A farmer was ploughing his field. At the edge of the field there was an anthill which he inadvertently destroyed with the plough, and thus the young serpents that were hiding in it were killed. The mother snake had casually gone out. When she came back she could not find her young ones. At last she found them cut into pieces. She was furious and understood that the farmer had killed them. She was bent on taking revenge.
At night when the farmer was sleeping with his wife and children, the snake came full of anger. She began to bite the feet of the farmer, and then one by one the feet of his wife and children. All began to cry. But the eldest daughter happened to be out of the house that night. Then the snake remembered that on the occasion of her wedding, the girl had gone to the house of her father-in-law. “I will not spare her either,” the snake resolved.
The snake ran towards the neighbouring village. She stopped before the door of a house, and saw a young girl inside. She recognized her as the farmer’s eldest daughter. The snake went in determined to bite her. But then she saw the young girl with joint hands worshipping the snake she had made out of “gandh”, and the nine “nagkule” (young snakes). She had offered them “nagane” (gram soaked and parched), “lahya” (rice blown out by parching), and “durva” (grass sacred to Ganpati), and she was praying with great devotion, “O God Snake, don’t be angry if I have committed any mistake. Accept my worship. Look after my people at home and in my father-in-law’s house. Do not bite anyone. Forgive any fault we may have committed inadvertently.”
With this the snake was pleased and came before the girl. She opened her eyes and got frightened at the sight of the snake. But the snake said, “Don’t be afraid. I shall not bite you. Tell me who you are and where your house is.” Then the snake knew well that the girl was the farmer’s daughter and felt very sorry for having killed all her people.
The snake told the girl what had happened, but told her not to cry. She gave her some nectar and told her to sprinkle it on her dead people, and with this they all came back to life.
Krishna and the Kaliya Snake
Nag Panchami is also connected with the following legend of Krishna. Young Krishna was playing with the other cowboys, when suddenly the ball got entangled in the high branch of a tree. Krishna volunteered to climb the tree and fetch the ball. But below the tree there was a deep part of the river Yamuna, in which the terrible snake Kaliya was living. Everybody was afraid of that part of the river.
Suddenly Krishna fell from the tree into the water. Then that terrible snake came up. But Krishna was ready and jumping on the snake’s head he caught it by the neck. Kaliya understood that Krishna was not an ordinary boy, and that it would not be easy to overcome him. So Kaliya pleaded with Krishna: “Please, do not kill me.” Krishna full of compassion asked the snake to promise that henceforth he would not harass anybody. Then he let the snake go free into the river again.
On Nag Panchami day the victory of Krishna over the Kaliya snake is commemorated. For this reason Krishna is known as “Kaliya Mardan”. Snakes are believed to like milk. As this is the day of the serpents, devotees pour milk into all the holes in the ground around the house or near the temple to propitiate them. Sometimes, a small pot of milk with some flowers is placed near the holes so that the snakes may drink it. If a snake actually drinks the milk, it is considered to be extremely lucky for the devotee. The festival is celebrated with much enthusiasm by all, especially women.
As most rivers in India are in spate during the month of Shriven, poisonous snakes come out of their subterranean abodes and creep about in plenty all over the place. Many also float on flooded rivers running through the countryside. Mortality from snakebites must have been considerable to prompt people to worship the nagas to seek protection from them. Because of the fear, nagas were elevated to a divine status by the Hindus. The serpents are believed to have the capability to change their shape at will. When in human form, they are depicted as beautiful women and handsome men.
Naga Panchami is observed indifferent ways in different parts of India. It is one of the most ancient fasts, and finds mention in the Puranas. It is believed to be one of the most auspicious days of the entire year. According to the Bhavishya Purana, when men bathe the snakes called Vasuki, Takshaka, Kaliya, Manibhadra, Airavata, Dhritarashtra, Karkotaka and Dhananjaya with milk on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of Shriven, they ensure freedom from danger for their families.
In some parts of southern India, figures of snakes are drawn with red sandalwood paste on wooden boards, or clay images of snakes coloured yellow or black are purchased. These are then worshipped and offered milk. Snake charmers wander about with all sorts of snakes, to which people offer milk. The snake charmers are paid some money for allowing this Serpent worship developed gradually from the fear of serpents that must have taken a heavy toll on life, particularly at the beginning of the rainy season. In the Ashvalayana Grihyasutra, the Paraskara Grihyasutra and other Grihyasutras, a rite called Sarpabali or 'offerings to serpents' was performed on the full moon night of Shriven. However the reason that it was moved from the full moon night to that of the fifth night of the bright fortnight is not apparent. It may be due to the slight change in the time of the onset of the rains.
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