Dharmaranya Mahatmya-Sadachari Brahmanas, SandhaVandana, Do’s & Dont’s

Maha Muni Veda Vyas described to Yudhishtara the eldest of Pandavas about the enormous significance of Dharmaranya where none had enemity with anybody, a typical Place of fearlessness, as tigers and rats played with each other, frogs and snakes coexist in Peace and human beings and Rakshasas are mutually helpful and friendly! That was the famous Forest where (Yama) Dharma Raja practised ruthless Tapasya for several Deva Years (each day of Devas equalling hundred human years) addressed to Maha Deva. Apprehensive of Dhamaraja’s intentions of a risk to his throne, Indra approached Brahma who prayed to Maha Deva and the latter confirmed that Dharmaraja’s objective was dignified and noble, but Indra became increasingly suspicious and despatched an ‘Apsara’named Vardhini to tempt Dharmaraja. Yamaraja had indeed known her intentions but asked her to convey to Indra that he had no desire to occupy the Throne of Heaven. As the Tapasya of Dharmaraja became more and more fierce, Maha Deva gave His ‘Darshan’ and agreed to three of his boons viz. that Dharmaranya where his sincere meditation was made be admired in Three Lokas; that there be a highly Sacred Tirtha so materialised and that He (Maha Deva) be always present as Visweswara Linga. The Linga so set up with Maha Deva’s boons eventually became as Dharmeswara Linga and sacred baths in the Dhramavapi set up by Dharmaraja became popular as ‘Vyadhinashak’ or the destroyer of diseases; those who offer ‘Yama Tarpanas’ would never face any danger in life; illnesses like Antariya, Tijari, ‘Jwaras’ of limited days and Sheeta Jwaras of varying kinds should never trouble human beings.

Veda Vyasa described to Yudhishtara the basic traits of Sadaachara Brahmanas ; he said that among Human beings, Brahmanas constituted the cream of the Society; among them were Vidwans, among Vidwans were Budhhimaans, and among them were Karmatthas or those who practise Karmas were Brahmaparayana Purushas. Those who desire to maintain Dharma do administer the precepts of ‘Yama’ and ‘Niyama’. Yama connotes Satya (Truth), Kshama (Patience), Saralata (Tendernes), Dhyan (Meditation), ‘Karuna’ mercifulness, Ahimsa (Non-violence), Mental and Physical Control, Sada Prasannata (cool temper always), Sweet behaviour and delicate demeanour. Niyama connotes the ten fold activities viz.  Shaucha (Physical Cleanliness), ‘Snaan’ (Bathing), Tapa (meditation), Daan (charity), Mouna (Maintaining Silence), Yagna, Swadhyayana (Reading by Self), Vrata (Pujas as prescribed), Upavasa (fasting), and Indriya Daman (Control of Limbs). Human Beings should certainly do well in controlling the Six Proverbial Enemies of Kama (Desire), Krodha (Anger), Lobha (avarice), Moha (Infatuation), Mada (Arrogance) and Matsarya (Jealousy).One should definitely realize that a human being enters the World alone and dies alone and in between becomes responsible for the noble or ignoble tasks executed. On the arrival of Mritu (death), human body is disposed off and almost immediately one’s brothers and relatives tend to forget the dead person sooner than later.

Jaayato haikalah Praani cha tathaikalah,
Ekalah Sukrutam Bhunkthey Bhunktey Dushkrutamekalaha /
Dehe Panchatvamapanne tyaktvaikam kaashttaloshtavat,
badhva vimukha yaanti dharmom yaantamanuvrajet /
Such is the reality of life.

Among the Niyamas, Shoucha is to be observed by way of physical cleanliness including the morning ablutions. Formal Snaan has an important role among the Niyamas which is observed with ‘Kusha’ grass on hand and tucked in the tuft on head, wear clean clothes, perform Pranayama ten to twelve times holding breath in a modulated manner in alternate nostrils by reciting Pranava Mantra OM, then observe Morning Sandhya Vandana commencing with ‘Achamana’ of Om Keshavaya Swaha, Narayana Swaha, Madhavaya Swaha etc. followed by Marjana Mantra of

‘Om Aapo hishtha mayo bhuvaha thaana vurje thadathana, Maherayanaya chakshasey/
yovassivatamo rasah tasya bhajahthehanaha usiteeravamaatarah /
tasya aranga maamavaha /Yassyakshayaya jinvadhah Apojanah yadhaachanah’

(Paramatma! As You are kind to accept our Prayers, do favour us with the means of our existence like food etc; do bless us with endless kindness our sincere desire to have Your divine appearance which is eternally blissful). Then sprinkle water nine times on Prithivi (Earth), Mastak (head), up on Akaakaash (the Sky), again on Akaakaash, on Prithvi again, on Mastak twice, on Akaakaash and on Prithvi again. The words Prithvi signify the two feet; Aaakaash signifies heart, the word Mastak signifies brain. Six kinds of ‘Snaanas’have been named viz.Varauna Snaan (bath with water), Agneya Snaan (Spread over ‘Dhuup’or smoke on all the limbs), Vayavya Snaan (Bathing by free air), Yendra Snaan (Bathing with rain water), Mantra Snaan (Purifying the body with Mantras) and Braahma Snaan (Veda Mantra Abhishek). Indeed Braahma Snaan is the best as it ensures ‘Baahyanatra Snaan’ -Purity both of external  or physical and internal  or mental cleanliness.After Marjana Mantra, ‘Drupadadiva Mumunchaanah’ Mantra is followed by the recital of Vidhijna Purusha ‘Ruthajna Sathyajna’ Mantras; thereafter, Aghamarshana Mantra is recited thrice further followed by Pranava (Om), Vyahritis viz. Bhuh, Bhuva and Suvaha and Gayatri Mantra: Tatsavithur Varenyam Bhargo Devasya Dheemahe Dhiyoyonah Prachodayat’( May we attain the great Glory of Savitur / Paramatma, so that He/She stimulates our prayers).He who performs Gayatri Japa three Sandhyas a day through Surya Deva achieves Progeny, Wealth, Agricultural and Animal prosperity, Good Health, Longevity, and all round Contentment. Gayatri Mantra Japa is followed by Tarpanas with water and ‘Kushas’ to Brahma and Devas; Marichi and other Rishis with Niveeti (Yagnopaveet as a Mala or Garland); and to Pitras with Tilas Black Tila’ or Sesamum (with Yagnopaveeta as Praachinaveeta or reverse side); Note: Black Tila Tarpana be avoided on Sundays, Sukla Trayodasi, Saptami, nights, Sandhya Vandana Times) and at these times, only white Til be used.

Vedagnihotra or Use of Fire along with Vedas is of five kinds: ‘Sweekar’ or what is taught from a Guru; ‘Artha Vichar’ (Aimed at Prosperity); ‘Mantra paatha Abhyas’ (Practice of Mantras); ‘Tapah’ (as per practice of Vedas); and Teaching Sishyas (disciples). Morning Agnihotras are aimed at ‘Praapti Raksha’ (Safeguarding what ever is achieved) and ‘Aprapti Prapti’ (Achieving what is not available). ‘Madhyahna kaala’ (mid-day) Agnihotras are oriented to Bali Viswa ‘homas’ into Agni with lentils like Urad, Chana and Matar; uncooked / cooked oil items, cooked rice, and ghee). Agni Puja is performed later with Gandha, Pushpa, Akshatas (rice with turmeric powder) and so on. Sprinkling water on all the sides of the Fire Pit is to ensure that Agni is never exposed naked). The Prasad is distributed among the six categories of Dharma bikshus or Guests of Soceity without hesitation, viz hungry travellers, widows /widowers, Vidyarthis, those who look after others; Sanyasis and Brahmacharis. Also, food given away to Chandalas, dogs, yachakas (beggars), patitas (fallen women), paparogis (diseased due to sins), etc. has its own benefits to Brahmanas.

In the  Grihashtashram  (family life), Maharshi Veda Vyas extolled to Yudhishthar the virtues of human beings, especially Brahmanas, as they play a pivotal role in performing duties to Devas, Pitras, Co- human beings, Bhuta Pranis, Krumi-Keetas (insects), Pakshis (birds) and even Asuras. Cows standing for virtues do fall in the care of Brahmanas as the former represent Vedas-Rig Ved being the back of Cows, Yajur Ved being their middle portion, and Sama Ved their ‘Kukshi’(stomach); ‘Ishta’or Yagnas and Yagas and ‘Apurti’ or Wells, Tatakas, Gardens etc are their horns; Veda Suktas are the body hairs; Shanti Karma and Pushti Karma are their dung and urine; ‘Aksharas’ are their feet; Cows live for their Pada-Krama-Jata-and Ghana Paatha viz. the various Mantras; Swahakar, Swadhakar, Vashatkar and Hanthakar are the four nipples of their breasts, each of the nipples representing Devatas; Pitras; Bhutas, Rishis, Munis and Sureswaraganas; and Human beings respectively. The last nipple yeilds maximum milk to human beings.Thus the responsibility of looking after cows is squarely on human beings. Besides, the ‘Grihastas’or family members need to observe Snaanas, Pujas, Tarpanas, Bali Vaiswadevas, and ‘Atithi Pujas’ or veneration to Guests in the normal course. Veda Vyas explained to Yudhishtar the eight kinds of ‘Vivahas’ (weddings) viz. Braahma, Daiva, Arsha, Praajaapathya, Asura, Gandharva, Raakshasa and Paisachika. When a bridegroom is invited and a bride is given away with Vastras (clothing) and jewellery is the Braahma Vivaha; Kanyadaan (offering a girl) by way of Yagna by Ritviks is a Diva Vivaha; when a bridegroom gifts a cow and a bull to the bride’s parents then the wedding is known as Arsha Vivah; when the bride and groom are specifically told that they would both observe Dharma in their Grahasta life and take vows to that effect, then the wedding is a Praajapatya category; if the couple like each other and marry freely without any strings of Chaturvarans or family restrictions whatsoever, then the wedding is of a Gandharva type; when a bridegroom forcibly abducts a bride and marries then it is a Raakshasa Vivah which is blamed by one and all; when a bride is forcibly married without her consent and money or other considerations are offered to the bride’s parents, then it is known as Asura Vivah; and a bride disappears suddenly and her where abouts are not known, then the worst kind of wedding is termed as Paisaachika Vivah.Of all the types of weddings, the best ones are obviously the Braahma, Daiva and Paraajapatya vivahas and even the Arsha Vivaha there is an angle of ‘Kanya Sulka’ or the tax payment involved and that leads the groom and parents to Kumbha Naraka! The various other kinds of Vivahas are subjected to vagaries of happiness in the union in the long run, none-too-ideal progeny, discontented family life, poverty, diseases, premature deaths in the families, and so on.  Keeping in view the violences committed by human beings in daily life, such as sweeping, cooking, watering, flour making etc. one must perform Pancha Yagnas; even otherwise Vedas and Shastras have prescribed Brahma Yagna by way of Veda-Shastra Swadhyayana; Pirtu Yagna by way of Tarpana, Homas by way of Deva Yagna, Bhuta Yagna by way of Bali or offering eats to insects etc; and Manushya Yagna by way of ‘Atithi’ Yagna. Do’s and Dont’s: As one could witness the rising and falling Surya Deva, never witness the midday Sun nor the Sun during eclipse time and not the egg shaped Sun soon after rise.Don’t see the shadows in water, never run in mud; never enter water naked; never witness a nude woman. One should pass to the right a Temple, Cow, Brahmana, honey, heap of earth, elders and the learned, Asvattha Tree, Guru, Pots of Water, cooked rice, curd and Til. Never serve a woman in menses nor eat along with her, never eat with a single cloth on or a seat which is too comfortable. Never eat food without propitiating Devas and Pitras; never urinate while standing or in motion, nor in Goshalas, water bodies and traps where there would be insects. Never perform Mala-Mutras looking at Brahmanas, Surya, Agni, Moon, Stars or Gurus. Never extinguish fire by mouth or feet. Never eat food or sleep at ‘Sandhya’ times (dawn or dusk). Never show Rainbow to anybody. Never wake up a person fast asleep. Do not drink in ‘Anjali’ (palms together). Do not eat bellyful in the nights. Refrain from dance-music. Never use the clothes, footwear worn by others. Never sit on the back of cows.Don’t bite nails with teeth. Clean hands, feet and mouth before eating. Never eat or drink in bed or while standing. Do not use both the hands on head and scratch. Do not give away Mantras to the uneligible, lest the Brahmana loses his identity. Never beat any body including a child, woman, animal, bird etc with both hands. Observe celibacy /abstinence on Chaturdasi, Ashtami, Amavasya and Purnami. Never blame Vedas, Devas, Brahmanas, Gurus, Kings or persons in authority, Sadhus, Tapasvis, Elders and Pativratas. Those who perform Bhu Daan would surely become a Mandaleswar, Anna daata is always happy and contented, donor of water would have good features, donor of Lights would get beautiful eyes, Godaan would qualify access to Suryaloka, donor of gold deserves long life, Til daan gets high status in life, Vastra daan gives entry to Chandra loka, a ‘Palki’or a cot gets a beautiful woman as wife. Speaking each lie or foul word in life reduces the stock of good tasks (Punya) earned already.

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham

Kamakoti.org presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.

Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by
V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager,
India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi
Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India
The author can be contacted at raovdn@yahoo.co.in