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Dr K K Aggarwal

Why do we apply holy ash?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Bhasma is the holy ash produced from the Homa, the sacrificial fire, wherein special wood along with ghee and other herbs are offered as a part of pooja. By the time a Bhasma is formed, no trace of original matter remains in the ash. Ash obtained from any burnt object is not bhasma.

The ritual involves worshipping the deity by pouring ash as abhishek and then distributing it as Bhasma, which is then applied on the forehead (usually), upper arms, chest, or rubbed all over the body. Some consume a pinch of Bhasma when they receive it.

The word Bhasma is derived from “bha” or “bhartsanam” (“to destroy”) and “sma” or “smaranam” (“to remember”). It denotes “that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered”. Bhasma is also called vibhuti, which means glory. Bhasma is associated with Lord Shiva who applies it all over His body.

Spiritually, the Homa is the offering of oblations into the fire with sacred chants and signifies offering or surrender of the ego and egocentric desires into the fire of knowledge. The resultant ash signifies the purity of the mind. The fire of knowledge burns the oblation and wood signifying ignorance and inertia respectively. The application of ash implies that one should burn false identification with the body.

Bhasma has medicinal values in Ayurveda. It is supposed to be the strongest of all Ayurveda preparations. According to Ayurveda, a Bhasma is formed when the matter is converted into non matter by the process of homa. The non matter is the spirit or the energy of the matter being processed with strong healing powers. It has the same significance as any ‘potentised’ medicine in homoeopathy.

It absorbs excess moisture from the body and prevents colds and headaches.

When applied with a red spot at the centre, the mark symbolizes Shiva–Shakti (the unity of energy and matter that creates the entire seen and unseen universe).

The Upanishads say that the famous Mrityunjaya Mantra should be chanted whilst applying ash on the forehead.

Why do We Worship the Tulsi Plant?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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Yanmule sarvatirhaani
Yannagre sarvadevataa
Yanmadhye sarvavedaascha
Tulasi taam namaamyaham

“I bow to the Tulsi, At whose base are all the holy places, At whose top reside all the deities and In whose middle are all the Vedas.”

The Tulsi or Sacred Basil is one of the most sacred plants. There is a saying in Sanskrit: “Tulanaa naasti athaiva tulsi” that which is incomparable in its qualities is the tulsi. It is the only pooja samagri, which can be washed and reused.

Satyabhama once weighed Lord Krishna against all her legendary wealth. The scales did not balance until a last single tulsi leaf was placed along with the wealth on the scale by Rukmini with devotion. Thus, tulsi played the vital role of demonstrating that even a small object offered with devotion is of greater value than all the wealth in the world.

The Tulsi leaf has great medicinal value and is used to cure various ailments, including the common cold. Tulsi seeds are good for male infertility and increase the viscosity of semen and sperm counts. It has detoxifying properties and is used in fasts including the Satynarayana Katha where a thousand tulsi leaves are added to the water for pooja, which is consumed later by everybody.

Tulsi also symbolizes Goddess Lakshmi. Those who wish to be righteous and have a happy family life worship the tulsi. Tulsi is ‘married’ to Lord Vishnu with pomp and show like any other wedding. This ‘marriage’ is solemnised because according to a legend, the Lord blessed her to be His consort. Tulsi is worshipped in the months of Magh and Kartik. Tulsi vivah is observed in the month of Kartik and is the symbolic marriage of Lord Vishnu in the form of a shaligram (sacred stone) and Tulsi. It indicates the importance of Tulsi for fertility. Tulsi pooja is an important component of any marriage.

Why do we Ring the Bell in a Temple?

By Dr K K Aggarwal
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The vibrations of the ringing bell also produce the auspicious primordial sound ‘Om’, thus creating a connection between the deity and the mind. 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.”