Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ragu Kalam Durga Pooja

“All ways of knowledge are your aspects, O Devi; so are all women in the world, endowed with various attributes. By you alone, O Mother, this world is filled” - Chandi, II, 6

One of the fast growing pooja in Malaysia and Singapore is the Ragu Kalam Durga pooja. Held weekly on every Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, this pooja attracts many people- Young people who perform this Pooja will excel in studies while the unmarried will be able to find a good life partner, married ladies will have a happy married life and their families will proper, the childless will have children and have a happy and prosperous life. Of all the days, Tuesday is the most auspicious day. The time is fixed viz: 3.00 pm and 4.30 pm on Tuesdays, 10.30 am and 12.00 pm on Fridays and 4.30 pm and 6.00 pm on Sundays. All the times that I mentioned are the Ragu Neeram ( the time of the Ragu ). Of all the Devi`s Pooja ( Varalakshmi Pooja, Pournami Pooja, Thiruvilaku Pooja ), Ragu Kalam Durga Pooja is the most simplest one. Utensils and sundries needed for the pooja are – Limes ( lime cut into a bit more than half and invert it )-( odd numbers ( a maximum of 9 ), wick, ghee and turmeric rice ,a tambalam ( silver plate ) and prasadam ( fruits, betel leaves and Areca nut ).

The pooja is normally conducted in Amman temples and procedures are quite different from one temple to another, but it follows exactly the same way of offering “mavuvilaku”. There are no specific mantras but in temples devotees will conduct banjans and chant the name of Durga Matha. At the end of the pooja, one is required to do “ Sangkalpam “. Lime is always been used in medication because of its acidity that can cure many diseases. One who wants to perform this pooja needs to invert the lime after it has been cut into half. Remember , this is the most difficult part, if you cut a unripe lime, U cant invert it and the same goes to a ripen lime. So the selection of the lime is very much needed. The main purpose is to bring out the dermis part of the lime which is usually white in colour. The lime is resembling us and we need show the inner part of us to God. Garment of illusion, greedy, lust and angriness need to throw away before God. The white dermis of the lime shows our pure conscious and the darker part ( green in colour which is hidden inside ) is our Maya. One can use any type of wicks in this pooja and I have listed out some of the wicks and its significance. Wick made of banana stem fibre removes offences before God and ancestral curse, cotton wick- obtains all good fortune, lotus stem fibre ( wick ) – removes karma from pervious birth and establishes a happy and prosperous life, white madder plant –pulp of the bark – increase wealth and dispels misfortunes, new yellow cotton cloth – obtains the grace of Goddess Parasakti and frees one from entanglements and will not be affected by further misfortunes and New Red cotton cloth- removes any marriage obstacles and child bearing obstacles, keep on free from spells, mantras and tantras. The wick is a symbol of energy and light where alight emits brightness. The point of the wick tells us that God is everywhere. The tambalam ( silver plates) reflect Brahma ( creator ) and the Turmeric rice ( uncooked rice ) resemble Maha Vishnu. The turmeric rice stabilise the lime and it acts exactly as God Vishnu who is a preserver and stabilise between born ( Brahma ) and death ( Rudra ). The top of the half cut inverted lime signifies Shiva. As the oil ( ghee ) is contained, just like Lord’s Shiva contained Ganga ( the river ) in His hair. The ghee and the flame signifies Goddess Laxmi who blessed us with her wealth, the brightness of the flame resemble Goddess Saraswathy who blessed us with education and knowledge and the heat from the flame signifies Mother Durga.

The pooja is nothing if we don’t understand the truth of this pooja. Ragu Kalam Durga Pooja is a typical South Indian way of worshiping Mother Durga. Mother Durga is well-known to the Northern Indian through their Durga Pooja or Navarathiri which held 4 times a year. There is a verbal story that somehow connects to this Pooja. Navagrahas the planet deities of which the first seven are Sun ( Surya ), Moon ( Soma ), Mars ( Mangal), Mercury ( Budha ), Jupiter ( Brishpati ), Venus( Sukra), Saturn ( Shani ) give names to the days of the week: Sunday to Saturday respectively. The other two Ragu (Ascending node) and Ketu (Descending node) are also fabled as planets, the former as a planet with a head and no body and the latter as a planet with a body and no head. In the Puranas, they are all represented as deities borne in cars. The planet Sun travels in some zodiac point each month. Similarly, the other planets have their times of travel through the zodiac assigned to them. As the planets travel through a particular zodiac signs, their relative positions with respect to each other changes and is supposed to determine the fate of the human affairs. An astrologer can draw up a horoscope of a person based on his time of birth and calculate the relative positions of the planets relative to this horoscope. The planets are also believed to influence the outcomes of historical events of entire nations and the Earth. Each planet has its own mode of circumambulation - clockwise or anti-clockwise. Each planet faces a different direction. In religious rites, beetle nuts represent the planets and the priest invites each planet to be present there and witness and bless the pooja.

So the story goes like this- “ A couple blessed with a child after their continuous prayers to Divine Mother. The child reached her puberty age and the parents decided to seek an astrologer to ask the fate of the child in future. The couple was shocked to get to know that their daughter has “ Ragu Thosam ( very bad time –Ragu is controlling her time ) and the ninth day from her birthday, a black serpent will bite her to death. Hearing this, the couple rushed to get the protection and remedies from Mother Durga. At this moment, Goddess Parvathy who wander as a saint in earth to help her devotees and Parvathy took the vow to save the child. The time comes and as predicted before , Ragu ( the serpent-head ) changes himself as a serpent and try his very best to kill the girl. Each of his attempt been blocked by Sakti and at last Sakti herself reincarnate as the girl and Ragu mistakenly bite Sakti thus made a sinful act. Ragu beg for forgiveness and as a reward he let go the girl. In forgiving his mistakes, Durga Matha remind him that Ragu thosam and Ragu`s influences will ease for those who are performing Pooja for her at Ragu Neeram ( a bad time ) and those who are conducting the pooja will be blessed by Mother Durga.

Why Ragu Neeram, why cant Emakandam neeram ( the time of Semi-god Yama )? Both as been accepted as inauspicious time. It seems The North Node of the Moon is called Ragu in Vedic astrology and the South Node is called ketu. They are called dark or shadow planets, because of the Nodes' association the phenomena of eclipses. They have no sign ruler ships, although they are said to favour Mercury and Jupiter's signs according to some authorities, while others claim that Ragu favours the sign of Aquarius and Ketu sign of Scorpio. Ragu, the North Node of the Moon means to conceal, engulf or hide in Sanskrit. This Graha is associated with the world of material manifestation and worldly desire. Ragu is associated with the spiritual process of involution, or the engrossing of spirit in materialization. Ragu is a karaka, or indicator, of worldly desire, fame, greed, high intelligence, manipulation, obsessive behaviour, foreigners, mass disease, dementia and inertia. The nature of this Graha is Vata, or Airy. These qualities of Ragu are with us. The Ken Upanishad, part three known as Yaksha Prashna says that The Supreme power of God is manifested as knowledge, activity and strength. The Bhagavad-Gita describes the same in different words ( Ch 17, Verse 5- “Purity, passion and inertia – these qualities , born of nature bind fast in the body. Purity known as Sattwa , passion known as Rajas and the inertia known as Tamas. Each of these three gunas represented by colour, Sattwa is white ( colour of purity )- represented by that aspect of mother Durga we worship as Goddess Saraswati. The colour of Rajas is red represented by that aspect of mother Durga we worship as Goddess Lakshmi and Tamas is black, represented by the aspect of mother Durga we worship as Goddess Kali. Ragu attribute Tamas to our life. Tamas is born of ignorance , deluding all embodied beings. Tamas binds fast in heedlessness , sleep, and indolence, laziness (Bhagavad-Gita , Ch 14 verse 8 ). Tamas is that binding force with a tendency to lethargy ( lack of energy, vitality ), sloth and foolish actions. It causes non-discrimination or delusion. It binds one who is associates with self with the Body. A tasmasic person act under the compulsion of the body. He has no power of judgement. His actions are not guided by reasons. His senses are dull. These are all baser animal qualities ( Ragu –serpent head ( half human and half animal form ), the lower diabolical nature in man. We pray to mother Kali as Durga as the supreme force and power to destroy all our impurities, our vices, and our defects. She is to fight and annihilate these demons. This is the strength aspect of Sakti as mentioned in the Upanishad .

Mother Durga is the power that guides and protects the devotee’s spiritual practice form its many danger and pitfalls. So, by performing this Ragu Kalam Durga Pooja, Mother Durga will bestow peace and prosperity in our life.

“mm Kala abhraham kata akshair, arikula bhaya dam, mauli bad-dhendu rekham shankam chakram kripanan tri-shikha –mapi karair, udvahantim trinetram, Simha-skanda –adhirudham tribuvanam akhilam purayanthim, Dhyayed Durga jaya akhyam Tri-dasha pati nutam sevitam seddhi kamaih"

which means “ I pray to thee O Mother Durga, with my folded hands and head on your lotus feet. You are , O Mother, known as Jaya ( victorious ), honoured and saluted by Lord of heaven name Indra and served by the devotees, wishing their success. You beam like thick and black clouds. You could terrify enemies even with a flash of your look. You are adorned with crown set of cresent moon on your head. You hold the conch, the chakra ( wheel ).the sword and the spear . You have three eyes, O Mother and on the back of the lion, your vahana. The whole world is filled with your great splendour , I pray thee, O mother Durga.

Several weeks back there was a post describing a simple Durga puja to be performed using limes turned inside-out. I immediately got together with some South Indian friends to try this. Even though they were pretty sure they had seen how one turns limes inside out, we were utterly unable to do so and ended up consulting the priest of the local Balaji temple. Here is his method: The lime has to be thin skinned. It should be rolled around a little bit to make it more flexible. The lime should be cut in half horizontally, not vertically. The juice should be squeezed out. Then the half lime should be turned inside-out and the "fruit" removed, leaving a nice bowl. Then that bowl should be filled with ghee or oil, a wick put in the ghee/oil and lit. The rest as has already been described. Perhaps there is more than one way to turn a lime inside-out, but that is what they do at this particular temple. Jai Ma, Gita

"Why should this not be performed at home?"

"Here is his method: The lime has to be thin skinned. It should be rolled around a little bit to make it more flexible. The lime should be cut in half horizontally, not vertically. The juice should be squeezed out. Then the half lime should be turned inside-out and the "fruit" removed, leaving a nice bowl. Then that bowl should be filled with ghee or oil, a wick put in the ghee/oil and lit. The rest as has already been described. Perhaps there is more than one way to turn a lime inside-out, but that is what they do at this particular temple."

The method describe here is almost the same way as how I would usually do. I would choose a bigger type of lime ( neither too green nor too yellow ) and yes! I would rolled around because it will make the skin of the lime softer and cut it horizontally. Removed the inner contents of the lime first, then turn it inside out. I know not of other way.

"This is because it is conducted in an inauspicious time. You can'tprovoke your aura at this time. Your environent is full of bad energy and it's very hard to for you to concentrate ( at home ). A new poojai should not be start in this time. In temples , we have "Balipeedam" . "Balipeedam" is a place of sacrifice but not oflives. In this your negative thoughts that you have to sacrifice. When you are in a temple, and start to worship God, it seems your bad aura ( energy ) will be absorbed by "Balipeedam" and enable you toworship God with single-minded devotion. "Poojai" itself is a declaration of faith to God and making your wish. In order to make a wish in an inauspicious time, you need to have the right place to ask for it."

I tends to disagree on this statement because I personally believe the home is the best place for one to conduct any pooja. If you cannot concentrate at home what makes you think that you can concentrate better in the temple. I find there are more distraction in the temple then at home.


Namaste Noraji,
The durga pooja can be done at home and it will be very effective if its done during the rahu kalam. But lighting of lemon lamps at house during the pooja is not permittable as per shastra...and it has got some reasoning also...

Normally durga pooja during rahu kalam is suggested to overcome ill effects of rahu and saturn. The Lemon is believed to be an attracting medium of energies and hence when we are doing pooja to overcome our ill effects, the lighting of lemon lamps is suggested...which will absorb all the ill effects and burn away the same. But since it is burning away the ill effects created by rahu and is better to be done at temple wherein the bad energy released will be neutralised in the power of the divinity. That is the basic reason for not permitting the same at home...I hope this clarifies and clears.

Thank you swam_15 for your response, but I have one question thou'
you said : "But lighting of lemon lamps at house during the pooja is not permittable as per shastra"
You like to quote for me which shastra you are refering to?

Dear Noraji,

I am not exactly sure about it...because I am very young and yet to learn all the shastras. But these things have been told to us by our mother when ever we ask them why we should not do this and then in the process i use to search for scientific reasoning to get correct response either through my own self or through various teachers.

Cutting personal history...coming to your question...I think there is pooja vidhi book which prescribes how to do poojas according to rules (vidhi)..may be pooja vidhanam or so...sometimes you get clarifications from Kanchi Sankaracharya also when u put across questions to him...u can try...there are infinite collections of his works wherein you may get exact answers...I hope me clarified your doubts.

Please note that there is no such thing called thin or thick skinned lime...u can use any lime for this purpose because all limes are same and one can easily make diva out of it...

Vanakkam Swam
"I am not exactly sure about it...because i am very young and yet to learn all the shastras. But these things have been told to us by our mother when ..."

Thank you, you have clarify my doubts.

Indeed our mothers are our first guru. We learn a lot from our mothers. I too learn from other Mothers too who have been kind enough to guide and be with me when I do the Pooja at my own home. The most important thing is that you must have an understanding of what you are doing, do them appropriately according to the ** Shastras ** as you mention and not just do things blindly. I have nothing against temple but I believe if you cant find divinity in your own Home Temple, what makes you think you can find one in the other temple. Everything begins at home.

So becareful when you use certain terms like "the research says" because next somebody will be asking : state this research claim in detail ( the researcher, the methodology used in this research, the outcome etc )Many a times people like to used bombastic terms they have no understanding just to impress others.

With great respect to you, I beg to differ about the limes. Like all citrus fruits some have thick skins and some have thinner skins, even within the same variety. I carefully held the limes available at the local market and the lime I selected seemed to have a thinner skin, one that would be less likely to crack or pull apart when being turned inside out.

Dear Friends, The reason why Rahu Kalam Durga Poojai shouldn't be conducted at home because a new poojai should not begin at home at an inauspicious time. Please not that Indian believes in good and bad time. People usually will go start something before this time, example- you want to go out or visit someone , everything that we do, we should not start at Rahu or Emakandam neeram. This thing is understood by everyone.

For this reason Rahu Kalam Poojai should not be conducted at home. Temples are different because they have "arra-kaalam poojai" They have continuous poojai – 3.30 am ( bathing the idols ), 6.30 am. poojai ( dawn ), 12.00 pm ( uchi Poojai ), 3.30 pm, ( bathing the idols ) , 6.30 pm. ( dusk ) and then 9.00 pm ( the last poojai of the day ). So Rahu kalam Durga poojai always But one thing about this poojai is that it is there is no proper way to conduct this poojai. In many Amman temples ( Malaysia ), women will light up the lamp made of limes and then they sing devotional songs while the priest will conduct the bathing ceremony, decorate the idols and at about 4.30 pm, the priest will conduct Karpoora Aarathy and then Prasadam will be given out. So, usually in temples this poojai usually joins together with other daily poojai.

But one can conduct Durga Poojai at home. You can conduct this poojai every Fridays ( during dusk ). Durgai Poojai has a proper way to perform it. You start the Poojai with Ganapathy Stothram, Maha Durga Devi Sangkalpam, Dhyaanam- Avaahanam, Jabam( meditation upon Durga Devi ), Recite Devi Sthuthi slokas, recite Durga Ashtotra Satha Namavali, Bhajans and end your poojai with Mantra Pushpam,Karpoora Aarthy, Samarppanan and Mangalam. And you can light up the lights ( made of limes ). The peak of this poojai will be the syamala navathiri (Navarathiri September-October)where 2 things are added to this poojai- Chant the Devi Mahatmyam-gita and conduct Lectumi and Saraswathy poojai. So, you still can conduct Durga Poojai at home -is matter of time, that's all. Besides that, temples are the place for Indians to reunite especially people like me , a Diaspora. There are not many Indians in my country and poojas are the gateway for us to unite and so on. So, this may be one of the reasons why it should not be conducted at home.

But frankly speak, my mother won't follow all this, sometimes she does it at home and sometimes at temple. Normally people will do this poojai for nine weeks continuously and my mother done the first nine weeks at home and then she continously conducting it for the past 6 years. I asked what she got from this, she told me " look at yourself", and so I came to know she was praying for me. My sister got married just after my mother finished her 9th poojai at home. So, this poojai really has something worth. So, I think Devi is there for us, no matter what time we are praying to Her, She is the time and she is beyond Good and Bad. Mother will help us in any time, she won't select.. "okay you are in bad time or praying at bad time .. I shall not help you"… That's ridiculous isn't it. So, it is all in our own perception. We have the reasons why we should not conduct it at home but we have to think and judge the information that been forwarded to us.

At this juncture I would like to repeat a scripturalstanza in which a Guru told his inquisitive disciple- Nobody knows what is right or what is wrong, Nobody knows what is good or what is bad, There is a deity residing within you, Find it out and obey its commands.

What I would to stress is that, it is our own perception just like Nora told me, it is up to you whether you want to conduct the poojai at home or at temple. I hope I am neither discouraging nor encouraging anyone to conduct this poojai at home. Home Temple is your first temple and I would like to add my opinion in this. I think our heart is the very first temple of God. The poojai room or even temples are showing our dirt, a dirt of ignorance. Everything need to start from us, we need to install a good environment within ourselves. God's first abode is our heart.

Hello Prainbow

I have been in the same place as yourself wishing to celebrate Maa and call upon her as she has so obviously called upon you and I, within a ritual. Then of course the question arises in the mind, how can I do this in a way that is real, authentic, meaningful and relating to your and my situation, where you live and who you are. What is meaningful? Maa called you within the karma you have now, where you are now and within what means you have now at this time to celebrate and express your devotion to her. Obviously too Maa was not concerned with who your are or where you are or with what you know about official practices toward her from within the many Dharma based practices within Mother India. So there you are with the need to do ritual and wishing to fulfill this. Then you ask those around you within this Shakta community what is best to do.

The answer will be hard to get since each person in this community is representing a different culture with differing ways of expressing ritual. Each culture has certain "official" ways of doing these rituals or poojas. Each has a traditional approach and one that each tradition feels is correct and handed down to them from Maa herself -through the examination of scriptures. So some will say only a temple is good, or some will say only a certain time is acceptable, or some will say only a priest can do such and so. But what is lost in this rush to do things right is that Maa called you where you are and as who you are. Maa did not call you to change your heritage, or beliefs or gender or place of origin there where you are. She called to you to do celebration and devotion to her and with her. She called you into her arms and to sit in her lap and learn of her. So in light of all this careful official approach to Maa --- Maa is doing a silly thing by calling you as you are and where you are and within the culture you are in. No really it is not silly, she has called you to herself -- Maa does not expect you to respond as or like anyone else --- just as yourself. She is delighted you are wishing to do a pooja like that of her daughters and sons in Mother India - but she does not expect it to be just like that group of children. So in light of who your are and where you are and the fact that Maa is calling YOU. Then do what she places in your heart and from what she places in your hands. Some will say this is delusional - no it is a calling to each heart from Maa and has to do with her and the soul where it is, at this time.

I say, do the lime candle and pooja as you have it now. I say yes it would be good to call the Hindu Temple near you and find our more about them - even if they are not Shakta oriented. I myself was able to be in, my one and only official pooja, last year at a temple miles from here, to hear my Swamiji speak upon his visit here from India and it was a Vishnu pooja. I was asked at the door why I was here and who I was devoted too -- I said Maa Kali and the priest said you are most welcome here in our temple. Now no one talked to me after that since it was obvious I did not quite fit in due to my dress and cultural difference and not having family there, but I was welcome and my Swamiji blessed me and spoke to me. Maa was with me too. It was a blessing. But I "felt" outside the situation the whole time I was there except for when I sat at the feet of my Swamiji at his teachings.

Some will say oh you are ignoring the Dharma and creating dangers. Or you are ignorant and unworthy and not appropriate in your devotions to Maa. But call me what you may --- it was Maa who called me where I am at and within this form I am in now, with the tools at hand now and the knowledge at hand now -- and the thing is, she does not obviously wish to wait for me to learn the proper way as it is called. She is grabbing me and pulling me up into her lap and calling me her own. So I celebrate her here in my home with my children in my lap, with flowers from my yard and food from my kitchen and incense and candles lite by my hands and words of devotion from my lips to her. She called me. So I say answer her call - learn what you can and from what others feel they are allowed to say - then celebrate and show devotion to your Mother Durga. She is the silly one who called you and stirs her heart with her pooja and with the need to light lime lamps. It is she who walks with us who live far from lands where the Dharma is taught - it is she who is being silly or ignorant by calling to us sisters far from the shores of Mother India. I am so glad she did.

So go girl, light those lime lamps and have a pooja.

I wanted to answer your request for information and give you my two cents worth because in reality that is all they are and all I have in my hands as I sit in my Mother's lap.

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