Tuesday, 31 July 2012


Upakarma, in Sanskrit, means "beginning" and historically, the day was considered auspicious for beginning the Vedic studies. It is an important festival for all brahmins who have gone through their Upanayana Ceremony.(Initiation).

Rig Veda Upakarma is observed on the day of Shravan Poornima. Brahmins who are the followers of Rig Veda change the sacred thread on the day. In 2012, the date is August 2.
For followers of Yajur Veda it is on August 1.


The significance of this day is that Lord Vishnu took the form of a horse and restored the Veda that was stolen from Lord Brahma by the demons Madhu and Kaitabha. As lord Vishnu took the form of a horse, this incarnation is called Hayagriva or "horse-head". After lord Vishnu created lord Brahma, he taught Brahma all the eternal Vedas. Once lord Brahma had mastered the Vedas, he was filled with ego that he was the only entity that had the knowledge of the all eternal and holy Vedas. Lord Vishnu thought otherwise and created demons Madhu and Kaitabha from two water drops on the lotus that he mounts. He then instructed them to steal the Vedas from Lord Brahma and hide it. Thus, Lord Brahma was in a fix that he was not able to save the holy and all eternal Vedas from theft and prayed to Lord Vishnu to do the needy. Lord Vishnu took the from of Hayagriva or Hayavadana and restored the all pervading Veda to safety,.thus curbing the pride of Brahma. So the day of Upakarma is also celebrated as Hayagriva utpatti. As the Vedas were restored on this day, Upakarma is performed on this day to mark a new beginning.

The main activity performed in an Upakarma is restarting the study of the Veda. As a consequence of this commencement of study, teachers and students of the Veda also change of the Yajnopavita (Yagnopavitta,Janivara) or the Holy Thread and make offerings (Tarpanam) to Rishis who are the seers of the hymns of the Veda.The day and its subsequent day are of great significance to all followers of the Vedas.


Boys and Men of the house need to do abhyanjan (oil head bath) early in the morning.

If men of the house go to temple to do the Upakarma, then below are some of the things to be taken:
Panchavala,Panchapathre,Udharane, Agarbathi,mangalarathi bathi, karpoora, halagarathi, 2 gejje vasthra, panchamrutha, Janivara, one pair of sodalu, beetal leaves, beetal nuts, fruits and coconut for neivedya.

The prasadam of the day is specially made Satvada hittu made out of all fruits (banana, guava, grapes, custard apple, apple, dry fruits), milk, ghee, til, jaggery, grated cocunut and rice flour. This is said to be very good for the rishis who are considered to be old and don't have teeth. Hence this preparation. Also this is done jointly by men who come for the ceremony.

Some sweet like obattu/payasa should be prepared marking the festival. Othu Shavige and haayigadabu is also prepared on this day. People who perform Upakarma needs to have phalahara in the night.

Ragi Chapathi

Over the centuries have traditionally used ragi as an essential whole grain in their diet,especially in Karnataka and Andrapradesh, where we use in for Ragi Mudhe and Ragi Rotti.Here is a variation of it as Chapathi, which makes it wholesome and filling breakfast.


Ragi Whole Wheat Flour - 1 Cup
Ragi Flour/Millet Flour - 1 Cup
Cumin Seeds/Jeera - 1/2 tsp.
Yogurt/Curd or milk - 2 tbsp.

Om Kaalu/Ajwain - 1tsp
Hing - a Pinch
Salt - To Taste
Vegetable Oil - 1 to 2 tbsp.

Can add 1/2 tsp Chillipowder if desired.


Knead the whole wheat flour,ragi flour,Ajwain,
cumin seeds,milk or curd, and salt in a bowl.

Smear with oil and let it rest for 10-15 mins.
Then divide into balls and roll the chapathis using rolling pin and dusting with flour.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat.Cook the roti
on both sides until golden brown,about 1 minute per side.

Serve the ragi chapathis/rotis hot with any curry or gravy of your

Monday, 30 July 2012

Karibevu Hurigadale Chutney Powder

This is the recipe given by Mother-In-Law, Smt.Shantha Govinda Rao

  1. Hurigadle (Fried gram) - 1 cup  
  2. Karibevu(Curry leaves) - 1 cup
  3. Kempumenasina Kaayi(Red Chillies) - 10 (depending on your spice level)
  4. Hunisehannu(Tamarind) - 2 small bits (Less than a lemon size)
  5. Kobbari(Dry Cocounut) grated - 1/2
  6. Bella - Jaggery - to taste
  7. Hing - 1 pinch
  8. Sasive(Mustard) - 1 teaspoon
  9. Salt to taste

1. Dry Roast Sasive/Hing/Chillies/Curry leaves/Tamarind
2. Powder the above with Hurigadle
3. After it cools, add kobbari and jaggery
4.Transfer to airtight container after it cools completely

The above makes approximately 400gms of Chutneypudi.

Arrangment of Deities in the pooja room

It is a must to have a place of worship at home and also to have family Deity's and Lord Ganapathi's idol or photograph. As most of the south indians worship many more Deities in the pooja room, right arrangement of the Deities was always a question at the back of my mind. During my research, I found the below arrangment as most aptful as it had lot of explanation. Although I am not elaborating too much, below is the gist of it.

Lord Ganapathi needs to be placed in the centre with idol or photograph of male Family Deity and other male Deities like Balkrishna, Hanumantha to His right and the female Family Deity and other female Deities, e.g. Annapūrṇā, to His left.

In some pictures the female Deity is depicted along with the male Deity, e.g. Sītārāma, Lakshmīnārāyanạ, etc. Whenever She is depicted to the left of the male Deity She bestows blessings onto devotees along with Her master. The left side symbolises the moon channel (Chandranāḍī) and endows Serenity and Bliss. This is the saviour form of the female Deity. In such photographs the male Deity is considered as the main one and the picture is placed to the right of Shrī Gaṇapati. In some pictures the female Deity is depicted to the right of the male Deity. The right side signifies the sun channel (Suryanāḍi). Thus the Deity is believed to be very powerful. This is the destroyer form of the female Deity.

To conclude, when the female Deity is to the right of the male Deity She possesses more energy and should be considered as the principal Deity. Hence such a picture is placed to the left of Shrī Gaṇapati.

One should keep the picture of the saviour or the destroyer form of the Deity for the ritualistic worship as per one’s wish to undertake spiritual practice of that form.

If a person having a Guru resides alone then he should keep only his Guru’s picture / photograph in the temple. If there are other family members then the Guru’s picture / photograph should be placed to the right of Shrī Gaṇapati and should be followed by the male Family Deity’s photograph.

Photographs or idols of the female Family Deity or other female Deities should be placed to the left of Shrī Gaṇapati.

If you have any other texts that says about the arrangements of the Deity's please share it in this blog. I am not here to say this is perfect, because I am no one to say so. But, I am here to share the knowledge that I acquired during my course of interaction with many learned people.

Thanks to for providing me with the above information.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Bringing up Children with Positive Discipline

Below is a write up by Hinduism Today, which is very informative and practical guide for young parents like me.
Positive Discipline English

10 Questions about Hinduism

I found a very informative PDF about 10 frequently asked questions about Hinduism.

So Sharing it with you all.

10questionsabout Hinduism

If you have any interesting documents that you would like me to share here, please email to me.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Kallu Sakkare Kolliro

Kallu sakkare koLLirO nivellaru
Kallu sakkare koLLirO |p|

 Kallu sakkare savi ballavare ballaru
pulla locana sri krishNa nAmavemba |a|

ettu hErugaLilla hottu mAruvudalla
ottatti gONiyoLu tumbuvudalla

etta hOdaru bADige sunkavidakilla

uttama sarakidu atilAbhabaruvanta |1|

nashTabILuvudalla nAta huTTuvudalla
eshTu oydaru bele rokka vidakilla
kaTTiruve tindu kaDimeyAguvudalla

paTTaNadoLage prasidhdha vAgiruvanta |2|

sante santege hOgi shramapadisuvudalla
sante yoLege yiTTu mAruvudalla

santasa baktara nAlige savigOLipa
kAnta purandara viTTala nAma vemba |3|

Listen to the Song here


JagadOddhAraNa ADisidaLe yashOde
jagadOddhAraNa maganendu tiLiyuta
suguNAnta ranganA AdisidaLe yashOde

nigamakE silukada agaNita mahimana
magugaLe mANikyana ADisidaLe yashOde
aNOraNIyana mahatO mahImana
apramEyana na ADisidaLe yashOde
parama puruSana paravAsudEvana
purandara viThalana ADisidaLe yashOde

Listen to this beautiful song here:

Pavadisu Parmathma

Pavadisu Paramaathma Sri Venkatesha
Manavemba Malligeya Hoova Haasige Mele..
Pavadisu Paramaathma Sri Venkatesha


(Raamanige Kausalya Laali Haadida Reethi
Anasooye Jogulava Haadi Nalida Reethi.. ) - 2
Ninna Mahimeya Paadi.. Paada Seveya Maadi.. Aa aa aaa…
Ninna Mahimeya Paadi.. Paada Seveya Maadi
Dhanyanaaguve Indhu Karuniso Daya Maadi

Pavadisu Paramaathma Sri Venkatesha
Manavemba Malligeya Hoova Haasige Mele
Pavadisu Paramaathma Sri Venkatesha


(Irulu Mugiyade Irali Hagalu Moodade Irali
Anugaala Ee Seve Saagutale Irali.. ) - 2
Bhakti Aritavanalla Mukthiyu Bekilla
Bhakti Aritavanalla Mukthiyu Bekilla
Ninna Kaanade Jeeva Kshana Kaala Nilladayya

Pavadisu Paramaathma Sri Venkatesha
Manavemba Malligeya Hoova Haasige Mele
Pavadisu Paramaathma Sri Venkatesha

Sri Venkatesha.. Sapthagirivaasa..

Bhaja Govindam

Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
Govindam bhaja moodamathe
Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
Govindam bhaja moodamathe

Sampraapthe sannihithe kaale(2)

Nahi nahi rakshathi dhugrunnyakarane
Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
Govindam bhaja moodamathe

Naree sthana bhara nabee dhesam
Dhrushtwa maaga mohaavesam (naree)
Ethan maamsavathaathi vikaaram (2)

Manassi vichinthaya vaaram vaaram
Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
Govindam bhaja moodamathe

Nalinee dhala gatha jala mathi tharalam
Thathwa jeevitham athishaya chapalam (nalinee)
Vidhi vyadhyabi maana grastham (2)

Lokam shoka hatham chasamastham
Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
Govindam bhaja moodamathe

Baala sthaaval creeda sathaa
Karuna sthaaval tharunee sathaa(baala)
Vridha sthaaval chinthaa sathaa (2)

Parame brahmani kopina sathaa
Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
Govindam bhaja moodamathe

Jahalee mundee lumchitha keshaa
Kashaayaambara bahu krutha vesha (jahalee)
Paschyanabhichana paschyathi mooda
Udhara nimitham bahu krutha vesham
Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
Govindam bhaja moodamathe

Punarabhi jananam punarabhi maranam
Punarabhi jananee jahare shayanam (punarabhi)
Iha samsaare bahu dhusthaare (2)

Kripayaa paare paahi muraare
Bhaja govindam bhaja govindam
Govindam bhaja moodamathe

Listen to the song here:

Jo Jo Shri Krishna Parmananda

Jo Jo Shri Krishna Paramananda
Jo Jo Gopiya Kanda
Mukunda Jo Jo || pa||

Palgadalodalolu Pavadisidhavane
Aaladelaya Mele Malagida Shishuve
Shrilathangiyala Chitadollabhane
Bala Ninnanu Padi Thoogovenaya Jo Jo ||1||

Holevantha Ranadda Thotila Mele
ThalaThalisuva Gulaganjiya Male
Aalade Ne Pididadenayya Muddubala
Nalinanabhane Ninna Padi Thooguvenu Jo Jo ||2||

Yara Kandha Ninaru Nidahni
Yara Rathavo Ninara Manikavo
Serithu yenagondu Chintamanyendu
Pora ninnanu padi Thooguvenaya Jo Jo ||3||

Gunanidhiye Ninnayethi kondare
Maneya Kelasavanyaru maduvaraiya
Manake Sukhanidreya Thandukobega
Phanishayanane Ninna padi Thooguvenaya Jo Jo ||4||

Andajavahana AnanthaMahima
Pundarikaksha ShriParamapavana
Hindu Daivada Ghanda Uddhandane
Panduranga Shri Purandara Vithala Jo Jo ||5||

Listen to this beautiful  song here :

Aaruthi Belagire

Aaruthi Belagire Nariyaru Bega
Aadi Kolhapura Mahalakshmige

Haadutha Janeyarellaru
Aadi Narayana Priyalige ||P||

Pille Kalungura Luulu Paijanaruli
Gillu Gillendu Hejjeyanidutha

Ullasadindali Naduvigodyana
Pullanabhana Priyalige ||1||

Jarada Pithambara Nirigegalaleyootha
JhagaJhageyinda Holeyuthali

Thota Kanchukavanu Itta Vankiya Thode
Betthada Venkobana Madadige ||2||

Chowri Raguta Gonde Heralu Bhangara
Buggudi valigalu Holeyuthali

SadagaraDhinda Kudiya Kumkuma Hacchi
Vadeya Venkobana Madadige ||3||

Aaruthi Belagire Nariyaru Bega
Aadi Kolhapura Mahalakshmige
Haadutha Janeyarellaru

Aadi Narayana Priyalige ||P||

Sharanu Sharanayya

Starting the first post under Haadu Hase with our ever loving Ganesha's most famous song..

Sharanu Sharanayya sharanu benaka
needayya baalella belaguvaa belaka
ninna nambida janake ihudayya yella sukha
tande kaayo namma karimukha

Ellaaru ondaagi ninna
namisi naliyodu nodoke chenna
garike tandare neenu
koduve varavanna
gati neene Ganapane kai hidiyo munna ||1||

Sooryanedurali manju karaguva reeti
ninna neneyalu odane Oduvudu bheeti
needayya baalella belaguva shakuti
torayya nammalli ninnaya preeti ||2||

Benaka Benaka Ekadanta
pachegallu panimetalu oppuva Vigneshwara
ninage ippatmoru namaskaragalu ||3||

You can listen to this song here

Why do we do Araati?

Towards the end of every ritualistic worship (pooja or bhajan) of the Lord or to welcome an honored guest or saint, we perform the aarati. This is always accompanied by the ringing of the bell and sometimes by singing, playing of musical instruments and clapping.
It is one of the sixteen steps (shodasha upachaara) of the pooja ritual. It is referred to as the lighted lamp in the right hand, which we wave in a clockwise circling movement to light the entire form of the Lord.
Each part is revealed individually and also the entire form of the Lord. As the light is waved we either do mental or loud chanting of prayers or simply behold the beautiful form of the Lord, illumined by the lamp. At the end of the aarati we place our hands over the flame and then gently touch our eyes and the top of the head.
We have seen and participated in this ritual from our childhood. Let us find out why we do the aarati?
Having worshipped the Lord of love - performing abhisheka, decorating the image and offering fruits and delicacies, we see the beauty of the Lord in all His glory. Our minds are focused on each limb of the Lord as the lamp lights it up. It is akin to silent open-eyed meditation on His beauty. The singing, clapping, ringing of the bell etc. denote the joy and auspiciousness, which accompanies the vision of the Lord.

Aarati is often performed with camphor. This holds a telling spiritual significance. Camphor when lit, burns itself out completely without leaving a trace of it. It represents our inherent tendencies (vaasanas). When lit by the fire of knowledge which illumines the Lord (Truth), our vaasanas thereafter burn themselves out completely, not leaving a trace of ego which creates in us a sense of individuality that keeps us separate from the Lord.

Also while camphor burns to reveal the glory of Lord, it emits a pleasant perfume even while it sacrifices itself. In our spiritual progress, even as we serve the guru and society, we should willingly sacrifice ourselves and all we have, to spread the "perfume" of love to all. We often wait a long while to see the illumined Lord but when the aarati is actually performed, our eyes close automatically as if to look within. This is to signify that each of us is a temple of the Lord.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Why do we offer a coconut?

In India one of the most common offerings in a temple is a coconut. It is also offered on occasions like weddings, festivals, the use of a new vehicle, bridge, house etc. It is offered in the sacrificial fire whilst performing homa. The coconut is broken and placed before the Lord. It is later distributed as prasaada.
The fibre covering of the dried coconut is removed except for a tuft on the top. The marks on the coconut make it look like the head of a human being. The coconut is broken, symbolising the breaking of the ego. The juice within, representing the inner tendencies (vaasanas) is offered along with the white kernel - the mind, to the Lord.
A mind thus purified by the touch of the Lord is used as prasaada ( a holy gift). In the traditional abhishekha ritual done in all temples and many homes, several materials are poured over the deity like milk, curd, honey, tender coconut water, sandal paste, holy ash etc. Each material has a specific significance of bestowing certain benefits on worshippers. Tender coconut water is used in abhisheka rituals since it is believed to bestow spiritual growth on the seeker.
The coconut also symbolises selfless service. Every part of the tree -the trunk, leaves, fruit, coir etc. Is used in innumerable ways like thatches, mats, tasty dishes, oil, soap etc. It takes in even salty water from the earth and converts it into sweet nutritive water that is especially beneficial to sick people. It is used in the preparation of many ayurvedic medicines and in other alternative medicinal systems.
The marks on the coconut are even thought to represent the three-eyed Lord Shiva and therefore it is considered to be a means to fulfill our desires.

Why do we chant Om?

Om is one of the most chanted sound symbols in India. It has a profound effect on the body and mind of the one who chants and also on the surroundings. Most mantras and vedic prayers start with Om.
All auspicious actions begin with Om. It is even used as a greeting - Om, Hari Om etc. It is repeated as a mantra or meditated upon. Its form is worshipped, contemplated upon or used as an auspicious sign.
Om is the universal name of the Lord. It is made up of the letters A (phonetically as in "around"), U (phonetically as in "put") and M (phonetically as in "mum"). The sound emerging from the vocal chords starts from the base of the throat as "A". With the coming together of the lips, "U" is formed and when the lips are closed, all sounds end in "M".
The three letters symbolize the three states (waking, dream and deep sleep), the three deities (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva), the three Vedas (Rig, Yajur and Sama) the three worlds (Bhuh, Bhuvah, Suvah) etc. The Lord is all these and beyond.
The formless, attributeless Lord (Brahman) is represented by the silence between two Om Chants. Om is also called pranava that means, "that (symbol or sound) by which the Lord is praised". The entire essence of the Vedas is enshrined in the word Om. It is said that the Lord started creating the world after chanting Om and atha. Hence its sound is considered to create an auspicious beginning for any task that we undertake. The Om chant should have the resounding sound of a bell (aaooommm).
Om is written in different ways in different places. The most common form symbolizes Lord Ganesha’s. The upper curve is the head; the lower large one, the stomach; the side one, the trunk; and the semi-circular mark with the dot, the sweetmeat ball (modaka) in Lord Ganesha's hand. Thus Om symbolizes everything - the means and the goal of life, the world and the Truth behind it, the material and the Sacred, all form and the Formless.

Why do we say shaanti thrice?

Shaanti, meaning "peace", is a natural state of being. Disturbances are created either by others or us. For example, peace already exists in a place until someone makes noise.

Therefore, peace underlies all our agitations. When agitations end, peace is naturally experienced since it was already there. Where there is peace, there is happiness. Therefore, every one without exception desires peace in his/her life.

However, peace within or without seems very hard to attain because it is covered by our own agitations. A rare few manage to remain peaceful within even in the midst of external agitation and troubles. To invoke peace, we chant prayers. By chanting prayers, troubles end and peace is experienced internally, irrespective of the external disturbances. All such prayers end by chanting shaanti thrice.
It is believed that trivaram satyam - that which is said thrice comes true. For emphasizing a point we repeat a thing thrice. In the court of law also, one who takes the witness stands says, "I shall speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth".
We chant shaanti thrice to emphasise our intense desire for peace. All obstacles, problems and sorrows originate from three sources.
Aadhidaivika : The unseen divine forces over which we have little or no control like earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions etc.
Aadhibhautika: The known factors around us like accidents, human contacts, pollution, crime etc.
Aadhyaatmika : We sincerely pray to the Lord that at least while we undertake special tasks or even in our daily lives, there are no problems or that, problems are minimised from the three sources written about above.
May peace alone prevail. Hence shaanti is chanted thrice.
It is chanted aloud the first time, addressing the unseen forces. It is chanted softer the second time, directed to our immediate surroundings and those around, and softest the last time as it is addressed to oneself.

Why do we blow the conch?

When the conch is blown, the primordial sound of Om emanates. Om is an auspicious sound that was chanted by the Lord before creating the world. It represents the world and the Truth behind it.
As the story goes, the demon Shankhaasura defeated devas, the Vedas and went to the bottom of the ocean. The devas appealed to Lord Vishnu for help. He incarnated as Matsya Avataara - the "fish incarnation" and killed Shankhaasura. The Lord blew the conch-shaped bone of his ear and head. The Om sound emanated, from which emerged the Vedas.
All knowledge enshrined in the Vedas is an elaboration of Om. The conch therefore is known as shankha after Shankaasura. The conch blown by the Lord is called Paanchajanya. He carries it at all times in one of His four hands.
It represents dharma or righteousness that is one of the four goals (purushaarthas) of life. The sound of the conch is thus also the victory call of good over evil. Another well-known purpose of blowing the conch and the instruments, known traditionally to produce auspicious sounds is to drown or mask negative comments or noises that may disturb or upset the atmosphere or the minds of worshippers.
Ancient India lived in her villages. Each village was presided over by a primary temple and several small ones. During the aarati performed after all-important poojas and on sacred occasions, the conch used to be blown. Since villages were generally small, the sound of the conch would be heard all over the village. People who could not make it to the temple were reminded to stop whatever they were doing, at least for a few seconds, and mentally bow to the Lord. The conch sound served to briefly elevate people's minds to a prayerful attitude even in the middle of their busy daily routine.
The conch is placed at the altar in temples and homes next to the Lord as a symbol of Naada Brahma (Truth), the Vedas, Om, dharma, victory and auspiciousness. It is often used to offer devotees thirtha (sanctified water) to raise their minds to the highest Truth. It is worshipped with the following verse.
Twam puraa saagarot pannaha Vishnunaa vidhrutahakare
Devaischa poojitha sarvahi Panchjanya namostu te
Salutations to Panchajanya the conch born of the ocean Held in the hand of Lord Vishnu and worshipped by all devas.

Why do we worship tulasi?

In Sanskrit, tulanaa naasti athaiva tulasi - that which is incomparable (in its qualities) is the tulasi
For Indians it is one of the most sacred plants. In fact it is known to be the only thing used in worship, which, once used, can be washed and reused in pooja - as it is regarded so self-purifying.
As one story goes, Tulasi was the devoted wife of Shankhachuda, a celestial being. She believed that Lord Krishna tricked her into sinning. So she cursed Him to become a stone (saaligraama). Seeing her devotion and adhered to righteousness, the Lord blessed her saying that she would become the worshipped plant, tulasi that would adorn His head.
Also that all offerings would be incomplete without the tulasi leaf - hence the worship of tulasi.
She also symbolises Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. Those who wish to be righteous and have a happy family life worship the tulasi.
Tulasi is married to the Lord with all pomp and show as in any wedding.
This is because according to another legend, the Lord blessed her to be His consort. Satyabhama once weighed Lord Krishna against all her legendary wealth. The scales did not balance till a single tulasi leaf was placed along with the wealth on the scale by Rukmini with devotion.
Thus the tulasi played the vital role of demonstrating to the world that even a small object offered with devotion means more to the Lord than all the wealth in the world.
The tulasi leaf has great medicinal value and is used to cure various ailments, including the common cold.
Yanmule sarvatirhaani
Yannagre sarvadevataa
Yanmadhye sarvavedaascha
Tulasi taam namaamyaham

Why do we consider the lotus as special?

The lotus is the symbol of truth, auspiciousness and beauty (satyam, shivam, sundaram). The Lord is also that nature and therefore, His various aspects are compared to a lotus (i.e. lotus-eyes, lotus feet, lotus hands, the lotus of the heart etc.).
The lotus blooms with the rising sun and close at night. Similarly, our minds open up and expand with the light of knowledge. The lotus grows even in slushy areas. It remains beautiful and untainted despite its surroundings, reminding us that we too can and should strive to remain pure and beautiful within, under all circumstances.
The lotus leaf never gets wet even though it is always in water. It symbolizes the man of wisdom (gyaani) who remains ever joyous, unaffected by the world of sorrow and change. This is revealed in a shloka from the Bhagwad-Geeta:
Brahmanyaadhaaya karmaani Sangam tyaktvaa karoti yaha
 Lipyate na sa paapena Padma patram ivaambhasaa
He who does actions, offering them to Brahman (the Supreme), abandoning attachment, is not tainted by sin, just as a lotus leaf remains unaffected by the water on it.
From this, we learn that what is natural to the man of wisdom becomes a discipline to be practiced by all saadhakas or spiritual seekers and devotees. Our bodies have certain energy centers described in the Yoga Shaastras as chakras.
Each one is associated with lotus that has a certain number of petals. For example, a lotus with a thousand petals represents the Sahasra chakra at the top of the head, which opens when the yogi attains Godhood or Realisation. Also, the lotus posture (padmaasana) is recommended when one sits for meditation. A lotus emerged from the navel of Lord Vishnu. Lord Brahma originated from it to create the world. Hence, the lotus symbolizes the link between the creator and the supreme Cause.
It also symbolizes Brahmaloka, the abode of Lord Brahma. The auspicious sign of the swastika is said to have evolved from the lotus.

Why do we worship the kalasha?

First of all what is a kalasha? A brass, mud or copper pot is filled with water. Mango leaves are placed in the mouth of the pot and a coconut is placed over it. A red or white thread is tied around its neck or sometimes all around it in a intricate diamond-shaped pattern. The pot may be decorated wit designs. Such a pot is known as a kalasha.
When the pot is filled with water or rice, it is known as purnakumbha representing the inert body which when filled with the divine life force gains the power to do all the wonderful things that makes life what it is.
A kalasha is placed with due rituals on all-important occasions like the traditional house warming (grihapravesa), wedding, daily worship etc. It is placed near the entrance as a sign of welcome. It is also used in a traditional manner while receiving holy personages. Why do we worship the kalasha? Before the creation came into being, Lord Vishnu was reclining on His snake-bed in the milky ocean. From His navel emerged a lotus from which appeared Lord Brahma, the creator, who thereafter created this world.
The water in the kalasha symbolizes the primordial water from which the entire creation emerged. It is the giver of life to all and has the potential of creating innumerable names and forms, the inert objects and the sentient beings and all that is auspicious in the world from the energy behind the universe. The leaves and coconut represent creation.
The thread represents the love that "binds" all in creation. The kalasha is therefore considered auspicious and worshipped. The waters from all the holy rivers, the knowledge of all the Vedas and the blessings of all the deities are invoked in the kalasha and its water is thereafter used for all the rituals, including the abhisheka.
The consecration (kumbhaabhisheka) of a temple is done in a grand manner with elaborate rituals including the pouring of one or more kalashas of holy water on the top of the temple. When the asuras and devas churned the milky ocean, the Lord appeared bearing the pot of nectar, which blessed one with everlasting life.
Thus the kalasha also symbolizes immortality. Men of wisdom are full and complete as they identify with the infinite Truth (poornatvam). They brim with joy and love and respect all that is auspicious. We greet them with a purnakumbha ("full pot") acknowledging their greatness and as a sign of respectful and reverential welcome, with a "full heart".

Why do we ring the bell in a temple?

Is it to wake up the Lord? But the Lord never sleeps. Is it to let the Lord know we have come? He does not need to be told, as He is all knowing. Is it a form of seeking permission to enter His precinct? It is a homecoming and therefore entry needs no permission. The Lord welcomes us at all times. Then why do we ring the bell?
The ringing of the bell produces what is regarded as an auspicious sound. It produces the sound Om, the universal name of the Lord. There should be auspiciousness within and without, to gain the vision of the Lord who is all-auspiciousness.
Even while doing the ritualistic aarati, we ring the bell. It is sometimes accompanied by the auspicious sounds of the conch and other musical instruments. An added significance of ringing the bell, conch and other instruments is that they help drowned any inauspicious or irrelevant noises and comments that might disturb or distract the worshippers in their devotional ardour, concentration and inner peace.
As we start the daily ritualistic worship (pooja) we ring the bell, chanting:
Aagamaarthamtu devaanaam gamanaarthamtu rakshasaam Kurve ghantaaravam tatra devataahvaahna lakshanam
I ring this bell indicating the invocation of divinity, So that virtuous and noble forces enter (my home and heart); and the demonic and evil forces from within and without, depart.

Why do we regard trees and plants as sacred?

The Lord, the life in us, pervades all living beings, be they plants or animals. Hence, they are all regarded as sacred. Human life on earth depends on plants and trees. They give us the vital factors that make life possible on earth: food, oxygen, clothing, shelter, medicines etc.
Hence, in India, we are taught to regard trees and plants as sacred. Indians scriptures tell us to plant ten trees if, for any reason, we have to cut one. We are advised to use parts of trees and plants only as much as is needed for food, fuel, shelter etc. we are also urged to apologies to a plant or tree before cutting it to avoid incurring a specific sin named soona.
Certain trees and plants like tulasi, peepal etc., which have tremendous beneficial qualities, are worshipped till today. It is believed that divine beings manifest as trees and plants, and many people worship them to fulfill their desires or to please the Lord.

Why is pradakshina done only in a clockwise manner?

 As we do pradakshina, the Lord is always on our right. In India the right side symbolizes auspiciousness. So as we circumambulate the sanctum sanctorum we remind ourselves to lead an auspicious life of righteousness, with the Lord who is the indispensable source of help and strength, as our guide - the "right hand".

Why do we do pradakshina (circumambulate)?

We cannot draw a circle without a center point. The Lord is the center, source and essence of our lives. Recognizing Him as the focal point in our lives, we go about doing our daily chores. This is the significance of pradakshina.
Also every point on the circumference of a circle is equidistant from the center. This means that wherever or whoever we may be, we are equally close to the Lord. His grace flows towards us without partiality

Why do we fast?

Most devout Indians fast regularly or on special occasions like festivals. On such days they do not eat at all, eat once or make do with fruits or a special diet of simple food.
Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. Upa means "near" + vaasa means "to stay". Upavaasa therefore means staying near (the Lord), meaning the attainment of close mental proximity with the Lord. Then what has upavaasa to do with food?
A lot of our time and energy is spent in procuring food items, preparing, cooking, eating and digesting food. Certain food types make our minds dull and agitated. Hence on certain days man decides to save time and conserve his energy by eating either simple, light food or totally abstaining from eating so that his mind becomes alert and pure. The mind, otherwise pre-occupied by the thought of food, now entertains noble thoughts and stays with the Lord. Since it is a self-imposed form of discipline it is usually adhered to with joy
Also every system needs a break and an overhaul to work at its best. Rest and a change of diet during fasting is very good for the digestive system and the entire body.
The more you indulge the senses, the more they make their demands. Fasting helps us to cultivate control over our senses, sublimate our desires and guide our minds to be poised and at peace.
Fasting should not make us weak, irritable or create an urge to indulge later. This happens when there is no noble goal behind fasting.
The Bhagavad-Gita urges us to eat appropriately - neither too less nor too much - yukta-aahaara and to eat simple, pure and healthy food (a saatvik diet) even when not fasting.

Why do offer food to the Lord before eating it?

Indians make an offering of food to the Lord and later partake of it as prasaada - a holy gift from the Lord. In our daily ritualistic worship (pooja) too we offer naivedyam (food) to the Lord.
The Lord is omnipotent and omniscient. Man is a part, while the Lord is the totality. All that we do is by His strength and knowledge alone. Hence what we receive in life as a result of our actions is really His alone. We acknowledge this through the act of offering food to Him. This is exemplified by the Hindi words "tera tujko arpan"– I offer what is Yours to You. Thereafter it is akin to His gift to us, graced by His divine touch.
Knowing this, our entire attitude to food and the act of eating changes. The food offered will naturally be pure and the best. We share what we get with others before consuming it. We do not demand, complain or criticise the quality of the food we get. We eat it with cheerful acceptance (prasaada buddhi).
Before we partake of our daily meals we first sprinkle water around the plate as an act of purification. Five morsels of food are placed on the side of the plate acknowledging the debt owed by us to the Divine forces (devta runa) for their benign grace and protection, our ancestors (pitru runa) for giving us their lineage and a family culture, the sages (rishi runa) as our religion and culture have been "realised", aintained and handed down to us by them, our fellow beings (manushya runa) who constitute society without the support of which we could not live as we do and other living beings (bhuta runa) for serving us selflessly.
Thereafter the Lord, the life force, who is also within us as the five life-giving physiological functions, is offered the food. This is done with the chant
praanaaya swaahaa, apaanaaya swaahaa, vyaanaaya swaahaa,
udaanaaya swaahaa, samaanaaya swaahaa, brahmane swaahaa

After offering the food thus, it is eaten as prasaada - blessed food.

To touch another with the feet is considered an act of misdemeanor. Why is this so?

In India, Man is regarded as the most beautiful, living breathing temple of the Lord! Therefore touching another with the feet is akin to disrespecting the divinity within him or her. This calls for an immediate apology, which is offered with reverence and humility.

Why do we apply the holy ash?

The ash of any burnt object is not regarded as holy ash. Bhasma (the holy ash) is the ash from the homa (sacrificial fire) where special wood along with ghee and other herbs is offered as worship of the Lord. Or the deity is worshipped by pouring ash as abhisheka and is then distributed as bhasma.
Bhasma is generally applied on the forehead. Some apply it on certain parts of the body like the upper arms, chest etc. Some ascetics rub it all over the body. Many consume a pinch of it each time they receive it.
The word bhasma means, "that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered.” Bha implied bhartsanam ("to destroy") and sma implies smaranam ("to remember"). The application of bhasma therefore signifies destruction of the evil and remembrance of the divine. Bhasma is called vibhuti (which means "glory") as it gives glory to one who applies it and raksha (which means a source of protection) as it protects the wearer from ill health and evil, by purifying him or her.
Homa (offering of oblations into the fire with sacred chants) signifies the offering or surrender of the ego and egocentric desires into the flame of knowledge or a noble and selfless cause. The consequent ash signifies the purity of the mind, which results from such actions.
Also the fire of knowledge burns the oblation and wood signifying ignorance and inertia respectively. The ash we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with the body and become free of the limitations of birth and death. This is not to be misconstrued as a morose reminder of death but as a powerful pointer towards the fact that time and tide wait for none.
Bhasma is specially associated with Lord Shiva who applies it all over His body. Shiva devotes apply bhasma as a tripundra. When applied with a red spot at the center, the mark symbolizes Shiva-Shakti (the unity of energy and matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe).
Tryambakam yajaamahe Sugandhim pushtivardhanam Urvaa rukamiva bhandhanaan Mrytyor muksheeyamaa amrutaat
"We worship the three-eyed Lord Shiva who nourishes and spread fragrance in our lives. May He free us from the shackles of sorrow, change and death – effortlessly, like the fall of a rip brinjal from its stem."

Why do we not touch papers, books and people with the feet?

To Indians, knowledge is sacred and divine. So it must be given respect at all times. Nowadays we separate subjects as sacred and secular. But in ancient India every subject - academic or spiritual - was considered divine and taught by the guru in the gurukula.
The custom of not stepping on educational tools is a frequent reminder of the high position accorded to knowledge in Indian culture. From an early age, this wisdom fosters in us a deep reverence for books and education. This is also the reason why we worship books, vehicles and instruments once a year on Saraswathi Pooja or Ayudha Pooja day, dedicated to the Goddess of Learning. In fact, each day before starting our studies, we pray:
Saraswati namasthubhyam Varade kaama roopini
Vidyaarambham karishyaami Sidhirbhavatu me sadaa
O Goddess Saraswati, the giver of Boons and fulfiller of wishes, I prostrate to You before starting my studies. May you always fulfill me?

Why do we wear marks (tilak, pottu and the like) on the forehead?

The tilak or pottu invokes a feeling of sanctity in the wearer and others. It is recognized as a religious mark. Its form and colour vary according to one’s caste, religious sect or the form of the Lord worshipped.
In earlier times, the four castes (based on varna or colour) - Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra - applied marks differently. The brahmin applied a white chandan mark signifying purity, as his profession was of a priestly or academic nature. The kshatriya applied a red kumkum mark signifying valour as he belonged to warrior races. The vaishya wore a yellow kesar or turmeric mark signifying prosperity as he was a businessman or trader devoted to creation of wealth. The sudra applied a black bhasma, kasturi or charcoal mark signifying service as he supported the work of the other three divisions.
Also Vishnu worshippers apply a chandan tilak of the shape of "U,” Shiva worshippers a tripundra of bhasma, Devi worshippers a red dot of kumkum and so on).
The tilak cover the spot between the eyebrows, which is the seat of memory and thinking. It is known as the Aajna Chakra in the language of Yoga. The tilak is applied with the prayer - "May I remember the Lord. May this pious feeling pervade all my activities. May I be righteous in my deeds.” Even when we temporarily forget this prayerful attitude the mark on another reminds us of our resolve. The tilak is thus a blessing of the Lord and a protection against wrong tendencies and forces.
The entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves - the forehead and the subtle spot between the eyebrows especially so. That is why worry generates heat and causes a headache. The tilak and pottu cools the forehead, protects us and prevents energy loss. Sometimes the entire forehead is covered with chandan or bhasma. Using plastic reusable "stick bindis" is not very beneficial, even though it serves the purpose of decoration.

Why do we do Namaste?

Indians greet each other with namaste. The two palms are placed together in front of the chest and the head bows whilst saying the word namaste. This greeting is for all - people younger than us, of our own age, those older than friends, even strangers and us.
There are five forms of formal traditional greeting enjoined in the shaastras of which namaskara is one. This is understood as prostration but it actually refers to paying homage as we do today when we greet each other with a namaste.
Namaste could be just a casual or formal greeting, a cultural convention or an act of worship. However there is much more to it than meets the eye. In Sanskrit namah + te = namaste. It means - I bow to you - my greetings, salutations or prostration to you. Namaha can also be literally interpreted as "na ma" (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.
The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. When we greet another, we do so with namaste, which means, "may our minds meet," indicated by the folded palms placed before the chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending friendship in love and humility
The spiritual meaning is even deeper. The life force, the divinity, the Self or the Lord in me is the same in all. Recognizing this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we salute with head bowed the Divinity in the person we meet. That is why sometimes, we close our eyes as we do namaste to a revered person or the Lord – as if to look within. The gesture is often accompanied by words like "Ram Ram,” "Jai Shri Krishna", "Namo Narayana", "Jai Shri Ram", "Om Shanti" etc - indicating the recognition of this divinity.
When we know this significance, our greeting does not remain just a superficial gesture or word but paves the way for a deeper communion with another in an atmosphere of love and respect.

Why should we have a prayer room?

Most Indian homes have a prayer room or altar. A lamp is lit and the Lord worshipped each day. Other spiritual practices like japa - repetition of the Lord’s name, meditation, paaraayana - reading of the scriptures, prayers, and devotional singing etc are also done here. Special worship is done on auspicious occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, festivals and the like. Each member of the family - young or old - communes with and worships the Divine here.

The Lord is the entire creation. He is therefore the true owner of the house we live in too. The prayer room is the Master room of the house. We are the earthly occupants of His property. This notion rids us of false pride and possessiveness.

The ideal attitude to take is to regard the Lord as the true owner of our homes and us as caretakers of His home. But if that is rather difficult, we could at least think of Him as a very welcome guest. Just as we would house an important guest in the best comfort, so too we felicitate the Lord’s presence in our homes by having a prayer room or altar, which is, at all times, kept clean and well-decorated.

Also the Lord is all pervading. To remind us that He resides in our homes with us, we have prayer rooms. Without the grace of the Lord, no task can be successfully or easily accomplished. We invoke His grace by communing with Him in the prayer room each day and on special occasions.

Each room in a house is dedicated to a specific function like the bedroom for resting, the drawing room to receive guests, the kitchen for cooking etc. The furniture, decor and the atmosphere of each room are made conducive to the purpose it serves. So too for the purpose of meditation, worship and prayer, we should have a conducive atmosphere - hence the need for a prayer room.

Sacred thoughts and sound vibrations pervade the place and influence the minds of those who spend time there. Spiritual thoughts and vibrations accumulated through regular meditation, worship and chanting done there pervade the prayer room. Even when we are tired or agitated, by just sitting in the prayer room for a while, we feel calm, rejuvenated and spiritually uplifted.