The sig­nif­i­cance to Hin­dus of ob­serv­ing Pu­rat­tasi

Sunday Tribune - - HERALD - CHANDRU KISTAN

IT IS cus­tom­ary for Hin­dus to be strictly veg­e­tar­ian or fast on re­li­gious and cul­tural oc­ca­sions.

A fast is not only about ab­stain­ing from meat dishes, the con­sump­tion of al­co­hol and worldly pleasures; it in­volves a strict code of con­duct – dry fast­ing, eat­ing salt-less food and fol­low­ing a veg­e­tar­ian diet.

Fast­ing is a rou­tine dis­ci­pline Hin­dus ob­serve on spe­cific and im­por­tant days in the Hindu cal­en­dar. Two of the long­est fasts are Pu­rat­tasi (a month) and Pithar Paksh (15 days).

Pu­rat­tasi is ob­served this year from to­day to Oc­to­ber 17.

Dur­ing this pe­riod, devo­tees pay homage to Vishnu, the Lord, Pre­server and Sus­tainer of the Uni­verse. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva rep­re­sent the holy trin­ity, ex­plain­ing the ever-chang­ing world. Brahma is the Lord of Cre­ation, Lord Vishnu of Preser­va­tion and Lord Shiva the De­stroyer.

Lord Vishnu is our Provider, Pre­server and Pro­tec­tor and the re­storer of Dharma (moral or­der). Dur­ing Pu­rat­tasi, devo­tees in­voke the bless­ing of Lord Vishnu through names like Hari­naaraayana, Yem Peru­maal, Govin­dha, Ven­keterse-vara and Gopaala.

The sym­bols as­so­ci­ated with Lord Vishnu are the wheel, known as Sakkaram and the conch, known as the Sun­goo.

The mo­tion of the wheel rep­re­sents progress and pros­per­ity. To at­tain progress and pros­per­ity, we must be calm, clear­minded and self-dis­ci­plined.

Pu­rat­tasi ad­vo­cates self­dis­ci­pline, self-con­trol and per­se­ver­ance. It’s a pe­riod of dis­ci­plined liv­ing, lead­ing to a pu­rifi­ca­tion of the body and mind, in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally; phys­i­cally and men­tally.

The un­der­ly­ing ben­e­fits de­rived dur­ing Pu­rat­tasi go be­yond re­li­gious en­hance­ment and en­light­en­ment; phys­i­cal and men­tal dis­ci­plines are rekin­dled.

Phys­i­cal dis­ci­pline is not only about fast­ing and fol­low­ing a veg­e­tar­ian diet but also is a cleans­ing and pu­rifi­ca­tion of the body’s or­gans and sys­tems.

It’s a time to test a per­son’s willpower, de­ter­mi­na­tion and per­se­ver­ance. Phys­i­cal dis­ci­pline alone dur­ing Pu­rat­tasi is not enough; it must be closely as­so­ci­ated with men­tal dis­ci­pline.

Men­tal dis­ci­pline is when one sur­ren­ders to­tally to the Supreme, fol­low­ing the spir­i­tual path to God-re­al­i­sa­tion. Dur­ing this pe­riod devo­tees are ex­pected to rise above base de­sires and be­come aware of the spir­i­tual lad­ders mankind must climb to es­cape evil thoughts and deeds, and progress and pros­per in life through love and ser­vice, and to live in peace and har­mony with fel­low hu­man be­ings and na­ture.

Satur­days are set aside for spe­cial prayers at home and in tem­ples. Devo­tees dry fast the en­tire day. In the late af­ter­noon, prayers usu­ally start in front of the home or tem­ple and the devo­tees chant “Govinda! Govinda! Govinda!” as they en­ter their prayer place.

Be­fore Saturday prayers, male devo­tees ap­ply the red and white naa­mam on the fore­head and fe­males the red dot.

At the Pu­rat­tasi prayer ser­vice, devo­tees sing padigams in praise of Lord Vishnu. On com­ple­tion of the prayers, the fast is “bro­ken” by drink­ing a ta­ble­spoon of sugar wa­ter with tulsi leaves.

At the end fam­ily and com­mu­nity mem­bers en­joy the prasadam and veg­e­tar­ian meals with fresh vedas and sweet­meats.

Prof Kistan is a trustee of the Shri Siva Subra­ma­niar Alayam, Veru­lam.

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