19th October 2021 is the full-Moon night. It is the time for the single night festival called ‘Sharad Purnima‘. It heralds the beginning of the month named ‘Kartik‘ as Kartikeya, the son of Shiva was born this day.
What is so special about this night?
Only once a year, on this night, this full-Moon night to be more specific, the Moon shines with all sixteen phases of waxing / waning. In terms of astronomy, there could only be 15 phases of Moon. But in terms of Indian astrology, there are sixteen. The extra one is the Moon phase known as ‘Amrita‘. Amrita is the life giving nectar. A drop of Amrita fell from the earthen pot (Kumbha) at Brahma-kund / Har-ki-paidi in Haridwar making it a divine place. On this night, the Moon drips nectar. Just like Chakras can’t be comprehended with modern medical science, the Amrita phase can’t be perceived with astronomy.
The implication is that only on this night there is an opportunity for mortals to receive benisons from Maha Tripura Sundari, the goddess for the 16th phase, by simply watching and experiencing the Moon.
The above shown video is of Moon on 12 October 2019, a night before Sharad Purnima. Moon shines upon Ganges at Haridwar, India while flute plays live in background.
16 phases of Moon: Chandra-kala
Of all the 365 nights in a year, the Sharad Purnima full-Moon is considered to be the most beautiful one; both in appearance as well as attributes. Considering all of the waxing and waning phases, and thus appearances, from no-Moon to full-Moon nights, there are 16 kala or phases. The Sharad Purnima full-Moon has the beauty or handsomeness, of all of the 16 phases.
The names for these 16 phases are – 1. Amrita 2. Manada 3. Poosha 4. Tusthi 5. Pusthi 6. Rati 7. Dhruti 8. Sasichini 9. Chandrika 10. Kanta 11. Jyotsna 12. Shree 13. Preeti 14. Angada 15. Poorna, and finally, 16. Poornamrita.
16 Goddesses: Shodashi
Corresponding to each phase, there is a goddess. These are – 1. Maha Tripura Sundari 2. Kameshwari 3. Bhagamalini 4. Nityaklinna 5. Berunda 6. Vanhivasini 7. Maha Vajreswari 8. Shivadooti 9. Twarita 10. Kulasundari 11. Nitya 12. Neelapataka 13. Vijaya 14. Sarvamangala 15. Jwalamalini, and finally, 16. Chidroopa
Berunda, the fifth one, can be interpreted with the being Ganda-Berunda, the double headed eagle. It was the seal of the Ganga dynasty that ruled southern India. In the western mysticism, this iconography has been used in orders like the 33 degree of freemasonry.
16 adornments: Solah-Shringar
In traditional make-up, a woman, particularly, a bride, uses 16 different forms of shringar or adornments. These are – 1. chutila or braided hair with fragrant flowers 2. maang-tika or ornament for the centrally parted hair 3. sindoor or red vermillion in the centrally parted hair 4. bindi or dot on the forehead 5. kajal or black eye-liner 6. nath or nose-ring 7. karn-phool or ear rings 8. haar or necklace 9. baaju-band or armlets 10. choodi or bangles 11. angoothi or rings for fingers 12. aarsi or thumb-ring with a natural mirror 13. aalata / kumkum or natural red colour for palms and feet 14. kardhani or waistband 15. payal or anklets, and finally, 16. bichua or toe ring.
Searching Madeleine Slade in Haridwar
In the Indian folk-lore, it is said that an old woman sits on Moon while spinning cotton wheel. This actually used to happen for several years in Haridwar. Madeleine Slade, born in 1892, was a pianist in the UK. She authored the biography of Beethoven forward to which was written by conductor Jubin Mehta. Her father was a commander of the British naval forces in Asia. When she met Romain Rolland, he asked her to meet ‘Christ-like’ Gandhi. Thus she visited India and after meeting Mahatma Gandhi, became his life-long follower. She set up an ashram in Haridwar in the year circa 1932. Gandhi ji himself visited and stayed briefly at the place. She used to teach cotton spinning here.
Not only her ashram but her memory also doesn’t survive. Staff of AZIMVTH Ashram were searching for the lost ashram of Madeleine for a year. Finally, on the 2nd October 2018, a minor expedition was led and they were able to locate the place which is about 10 km downstream AZIMVTH Ashram. 2nd October is birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. After Gandhi ji passed away, Madeleine brought a part of his ashes and immersed them in Ganges near to her ashram.
Following video shows her teaching cotton-spinning. Although not old in age, she is exactly like what the Indian folk-lore describes a scene at Moon. More can be read here.
Moon affects water and human bodies
In modern astronomy, there used to be nine planets in the solar system. Now there are only eight. But in the Indian astrology, there continue to be 9 planets that affect a person’s life. Moon is one of them. Infact, being closest to Earth, it makes a major impact. Tides in oceans are affected on full-Moon nights. Menstrual cycles are also said to be affected. After all, a human being is also a kind of ‘water-body’ with about 70% mass of human body being water.
Unlike an Indian folk-lore of an old woman spinning a wheel at Moon, when one talks of full-Moon night, the imagery that comes to a western mind is that of the face of a howling wolf framed against a large Moon. A domestic dog, when left in wild, acquires traits of a wolf within 3-4 generations. The nuclear disaster site of Chernobyl is one of the largest forest sanctuaries of Europe. Studies of incidents of dog-bites on full Moon nights in the West versus in Australia led to opposing results. Lunacy was said to be related with full Moon. Yet in India, there are no such connotations associated with a full Moon night.
16 attributes of the divine: Sampoorna-Avatar
Each phase relates to a certain attribute. Lord Krishna, the 9th Avatar of Lord Vishnu, was born with 16 kala or attributes. Rama, the 8th Avatar, was born with only 12. It is for this reason that Krishna is the complete Avatar of Vishnu. Although born as a human, Krishna is like Vishnu himself.
The 16 attributes are – 1. Anna-maya 2. Prana-maya, 3. Mano-maya, 4. Vigyana-maya 5. Ananda-maya 6. Atishayini, 7. Viparinabhimi 8. Sankramini 9. Prabhvi 10. Kunthini 11. Vikasini 12. Maryadini 13. Sanhaladini 14 Ahladini 15. Paripurna, and finally, 16. Swarupavasthit.
That being said, the exact nature of the divine is beyond an algorithmic or quantifiable description.
Yoginis and Yogis would be well aware of the first five attributes described as panch-koshas, the five sheaths humans are made up of. To perfect and excel with the five attributes is a feat in itself.
Various thought-leaders have independently written about the human evolution and also about attributes. Some examples are given below.
- “We are evolving from five-sensory humans into multi-sensory humans.”
The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukov (1989)
- “The collective level of consciousness of mankind remained at 190 for many centuries and, curiously, only jumped to its current level of 204 within the last decade.”
POWER vs FORCE by David Hawkins (1995)
- “Today, across the world, people are awakening as if from a deep sleep. There is a powerful desire to heal and be healed. … The passion for healing is leading to a transformation of individual and collective consciousness.”
Soul Power: The Transformations That Happen When You Know by NIKKI DE CARTERET, (2003)
- “… the mind sees only a given time and space and views many possibilities pell-mell… To see things steadily and see them whole is not possible to the mind; but it is the very nature of the transcendent Supermind.”
The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo
Maha Tripura Sundari
As explained above, Maha Tripura Sundari, is the Goddess who makes the moon and the night spontaneously blissful. She is the goddess common to the groups –
- Nav Durga – the 9 goddesses of Nav-ratri nine nights
- Das Vidya – the 10 great goddesses of knowledge
- Nitya Devis – the 16 goddesses pertaining to the 16 phases of Moon
Each goddess has a mantra. Each of the 10 great knowledge goddesses have a yantra-diagram. The Tantra system is esoteric. The prayers and processes require expert knowledge and guidance. It is noteworthy that Sri Yantra, corresponding to Maha Tripura Sundari doesn’t require invocation to receive blessings. One may install, with proper method, a Sri Yantra at the inside entrance of her house to receive automatic blessings.
How to celebrate?
Devotees prepare kheer, a rice pudding, using makhana, milk, cardamom etc. and keep that under open sky. The correct Sanskrit word for kheer is ksheer. Lord Vishnu resides in ocean named Ksheer-sagar. It is said thkat Lord Ganeshka once prepared kheer for an entire village. Chandra-kala, literally meaning Moon-phase, is another sweet-dish that can be bought in the market. This kheer is left under open-sky while people pray or do group activities like playing. Moon rays enrich it with divine blessings. One makes prayers and share kheer with family after making offerings.
If one doesn’t know the prayers, then there is another way to observe, celebrate, and meditate during Sharad-Purnima After bath, one may wear white or light coloured clothes, arrange fragrant white flowers, arrange white coloured desserts and sit calmly under Moon. If for climate / weather reasons, one can not be under open sky, then she may be indoors. One may write ‘Aum’ in Sanskrit, 108 times while breathing gently. Recorded soft flute music may be played in the background. Flute is dear to Krishna. More about this can be read here.
The image above shows ‘Aum’ written in various languages / scripts. The one on the extreme left is in Sanskrit / Devnagari and the fourth from left is in Japanese Sittam script which survives only in some temples in Japan, after having migrated from India. It is noteworthy that all of them use a symbol of a dot inside a semi-circle. This symbol is called as ‘Chandra-bindu‘ meaning ‘Moon-dot’. While writing / drawing the ‘Aum’ 108 times, one may give extra emphasis on this Moon-dot.
Ida-Pingala & Moon Salutation
Moon-Salutation is actually a variation of Sun-Salutations. This is appropriate as after-all the moonlight is only a reflection of sun-light. Those who have trained with the pranayama Yoga relating to Ida-Pingala, nadi-shodhan, anulom-vilom and such practices may does it leisurely 108 times.
AZIMVTH Moon Meditation
At AZIMVTH Ashram, a guided meditation, with regards to Moon, is conducted with carefully selected and invited pupils. The size (diameter) of Moon and the distance from Moon to Earth is such that about 108 moons can be fitted in a straight line from Earth to Moon. On a full-Moon night, Sun, Earth, and Moon align in a straight line, with Earth being in the middle. One may consider this as if the Sun-Earth-Moon part of the solar system is aligning its chakras as would happen spontaneously in human body when in Vajra-Asana posture.
(The above shown image is of Full Moon on Sharad Purnima 2019 at AZIMVTH Ashram, Haridwar, India.)
A mala actually has 109 (not 108) beads, the 109th being the super-numerary Guru-bead. A seeker chants a mantra 108 times using a mala. This way she is not distracted by8 keeping a count. After each chant, a bead is shifted as one would do for an abacus that contains beads strung on a straight wire. A circle of 108 chants is completed around the Guru bead. Earth is about 3.6 times bigger than Moon. Keeping these astronomical facts in mind, special malas are designed in-house at AZIMVTH for Moon-meditation. An activity is completed leading to count one and slipping one bead as if one has travelled an equivalent distance from Earth towards Moon. With the first count it is visualised that due to Amrita kala of Moon its beams are illuminating a seeker, then reflecting, and slowly getting absorbed into the seeker as if she is translucent like marble. The meditation is completed in 12 laps with each lap having 9 counts. In the last lap, the visualisation is that one has become as pure and transparent as sphatik, the natural quartz dear to Lord Shiva.
(The following video shows Full Moon on Sharad Purnima 2019 at AZIMVTH Ashram, Haridwar, India.)
AZIMVTH guides residents to make their own interpretations of Moon and customise meditations for each participant. A participant, while at AZIMVTH Ashram, made copious drawings of phases of Moon – one drawing for each of the night she has been alive for. This will be a life-long project. She will make a book having pages corresponding to each night of 110 years. At AZIMVTH Ashram, she reached up till year 2014 – drawing one Moon for each night since her birth. She carried back this tool of meditation with her and brought her book up-to-date in further one-and-half years. More about this can be read here.
It will not be the same but still the Moon is worth experiencing during the next two nights as well.
Millions of people in different parts of the world look at the same Moon and are part of the same world. Yet every one lives in her individual world world.