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Last updateTue, 13 Jun 2017 9am

The story of Holi

The story of Holi

How Holi Got Its Name

In days of yore, there were communities of cannibals in India. They caused much havoc. They threatened the lives of many innocent people. One of them was Holika or Putana. She took immense delight in devouring children. Sri Krishna destroyed her and thus saved the little children. Even today, the effigy or figure of Holika is burnt in the fire. This is the origin of the great festival of Holi.

Why Holi is Celebrated in Spring

It begins about ten days before the full moon of the month Phalgun (February-March), but is usually only observed for the last three or four days, terminating with the full moon. This is the spring festival of the Hindus. In the spring season all the trees are filled with sweet-smelling flowers.

They all proclaim the glory and everlasting beauty of God. They inspire you with hope, joy and a new life, and stir you on to find out the creator and the inner dweller, who is hiding Himself in these forms.

On the festival day, people clean their homes, remove all dirty articles from around the house and burn them. Disease-breeding bacteria are thereby destroyed. The sanitary condition of the locality is improved. On the last day of Holi, people take a little fire from this bonfire to their homes. They believe that their homes will be rendered pure, and their bodies free from disease.

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The meaning of Shivratri

The meaning of Shivratri

Shivaratri is one of the holiest nights of the year. It is the night dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. Literally, Shivratri means, “The great night of Shiva.” It is celebrated on the 13th or 14th day of the dark half of the month of Phalguna (February - March).

In the trinity of the manifestations of the Supreme Reality – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – Lord Shiva is the one who destroys that which is old and impure in order to make room for a new creation of that which is pure and divine. Lord Shiva annihilates our egos, our attachments and our ignorance. Many fear Lord Shiva’s destructive capacity, and yet it is destruction for the purpose of regeneration. Without death, life cannot begin anew. Without the annihilation of old habits, attachments and ego, we cannot progress toward the goal of God realization. Unless our “vessel” has been emptied of all that is old, negative and impure, it cannot be filled with divine qualities.

The holiday of Shivratri is celebrated by performing special Shiva puja and Abhishek as well as by remaining awake at night in meditation, kirtan and japa. During the course of the night, the Abhishek can be performed every three hours with water, milk, yogurt, honey, etc. Bel (bilva) leaves are frequently offered during Shiva puja, as it is believed that Maha Lakshmi resides within them, and it is considered particularly auspicious to offer them on this occasion.

It is said that the offering of Bel leaves on the occasion of Shivratri is so auspicious that even one who offers them unknowingly (as in the case of the hunter Suswara) will attain liberation.

Bhagwan Shiva is portrayed with ash on his forehead, and devotees of Lord Shiva frequently apply sacred ash to various parts of their body. This symbolizes two things. Everything that today has a form on the Earth once was ash in the ground and again will be reduced to nothing but ash. Therefore, the ash serves to remind us that all that we are, all that we do, all that we earn and acquire will only be reduced to ash one day, and therefore we should live our lives dedicated to God and dedicated to serving humanity, rather than to the accumulation of temporary possessions and comfort. When we apply the sacred ash or see it, we are reminded “Ah yes, it is only by the grace of Lord Shiva that I am still here today, and that I have not yet been turned to ash. It is His grace that my home, my family and my possessions are still with me and that they have not become ash. Therefore, I should remember Him, pray to Him and devote myself to Him.”

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Drinking Alcohol: Health Boost or Health Risk?

Drinking Alcohol Health Boost

When it comes to alcohol, how much is too much? Find out what the experts recommend and how to recognize the signs that you're drinking too much.

A large number of studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. Moderate drinking means one drink per day for women and one to two for men, says Donald Novey, MD, an integrative medicine physician with the Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill. “The difference in amounts is because of how men and women metabolize alcohol,” Dr. Novey explains.

“When you say one drink, the size of that drink matters,” Novey adds. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture one drink is equal to:

  • 12 ounces of beer or
  • 5 ounces of wine or
  • 1½ ounces of spirits (hard liquor such as gin or whiskey, 80-proof)

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How to Celebrate Navaratri

How to Celebrate Navaratri

There is an endless variety of modes of worship and observance for Navaratri, the nine nights of Devi.  During these nine days and nine nights, Ma Durga is worshiped for the first three days, then Ma Lakshmi for the fourth through sixth days and finally Ma Saraswati for the last three days.  Vijaya Dashami (the tenth day) celebrates the triumph of Devi over the Rakshasas, the defeat of Ravana by Rama, and of Dharma generally over Adharma.  Ma Durga destroys our enemies and negative tendencies; Ma Lakshmi bestows upon us that which is auspicious and good; and Ma Saraswati illuminates our minds and consciousness with the radiance of subtle intelligence and wisdom and the eternal truths of the Mahavakyas (the great Vedantic aphorisms revealed in the Upanishads) – Tat Tvam Asi, Aham Brahmasmi, Ayam Atma Brahma, etc.

For those who do not already have a specific routine in place for observing Navaratri, here are some general guidelines:

KALASHA STHAPANA:

At the beginning of Navaratri (some say on the night of Amavasya or in the morning of Pratipat (the first official day of Navaratri)), one should set up the altar for Devi.

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Seat Belts: How They Save Lives

Seat Belts How They Save Lives

Do you snap in your seat belt as soon as you get in the car? Do your children have the right safety seats for their weight and age? If you've answered no, even just once, you need to read on.

It's been proven time and again, on back roads and superhighways: A seat belt can save a life in a car accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 15,000 lives are saved each year in the United States because drivers and their passengers were wearing seat belts when they were in accidents.

Seat Belt Safety: 5-Way Protection

“Seat belts prevent occupants of the vehicle from serious injury in five ways,” says Angela Osterhuber, director of the Pennsylvania Traffic Injury Prevention Project in Media, Pa. A seat belt:

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