Sunday, 13 December 2009

.:. Ambrosia by Sabrina Montanaro .:. Amrita .:. अमृत .:

.:. Ambrosia .:. Amrita .:. अमृत .:.

by Sabrina Montanaro

.:. अमृत .:. Ambrosia .:. Amrita .:. by Sabrina Montanaro .:. from Yona Yavana on Vimeo.

This movie is based on the ancient theme which surfaces in the song " by Sabrina Montanaro from her amazing CD "... and a Bee Hit the Drum !".

The lyrics celebrate the imagery of the myth of the Samudra Manthan - the churning of the Milk Ocean - the epiphany of MahaLakshmi.

The audio track is on the music page of Sabrina Montanaro which is at

Ambrosia - the honey nectar of the Gods - is known as amrita in Sanskrit --- from an ancient Indo-European root meaning "immortal".


Vak Ambhrini and Her Song of the Soul
by Satya Chaitanya

Vak Ambhrini -- Vak, the daughter of the Rishi Ambhrina.  Or Vagambhrini, as her name is pronounced when the two names are combined.

A rishika, female seer and author of mantras, in her own right.

Was she the first woman poet of the world?

We will never know.  What we know for sure, though, is that she is among the oldest poets of the world.  Her song appears in the Rig Veda.  It is the hundred and twenty-fifth sookta of the tenth mandala [book] of the Rig Veda.

The most common name for it is Vak Sookta, though it is known by other names too, such as Atma Sookta, Song of the Soul, and Devi Sookta, Song of the Goddess.

The majestic beauty of the Vak Sookta makes us wonder if poetry has ever reached greater heights!

The Vedas themselves describe their poetry as joyous streams bursting forth from the mountains.  The Vak Sookta is that -- a joyous stream bursting forth from the mountains.

But it is much more than that too.  It comes to us with the power of a thundershower.  The sookta is not just powerful, but power itself.  It has at the same time the ephemeral loveliness of a rare winter blossom and the awesome majesty of the eternal Himalayas.

The earth singing the song of its soul -- that is what we feel when we go through the song, or, better still, when we let the song go through us.  To experience the Sookta on a fine morning when the world is just awakening after a night's serene slumber is to have a bath in the most sacred of teerthas -- like a dip in the Manas Sarovar itself.

And you feel the presence the Lord of Kailasa in the sookta, as at the Sarovar.  He is there, sanctifying every syllable of the timeless sookta.  And with him is the Mother Goddess, sanctifying each word of Vagambhrini's sookta, and in the silences between the words.

Like other sooktas in the Vedas, the Vak Sookta too is a spontaneous outpouring of the poet-seer's soul.

An outpouring not from the ordinary dimension of human experience, but from the highest possible reaches of it.  It is what we call revealed poetry.

It is not a deliberate composition, wherein the poet sits down and thinks of each word that will go into the making of the poem.  No, there is nothing like that here.

The rishika has had a powerful experience -- the most powerful experience possible, a hundred times, maybe a thousand times, more powerful than the most powerful experience we can imagine.

The experience of herself, of her own self, an experience in which the experiencer, the experienced and the act of experiencing all merge and become one. An experience that is really no experience at all, since these distinctions have disappeared.

The experience of her self as the soul of the universe, its very being.

And she allows the ecstasy of her experience to pour out in words -- that is the Vak Sookta.

The Vak Sookta is pure splendor -- a celebration of the splendor that what we truly are.  As we read it, listen to it, we feel poetry has never climbed to greater heights, nor reached more profound depths.

For what Vak experiences is that she is the mother of the universe, with all its gods and humans and every created thing.  Hers is the ultimate spiritual experience, which the Upanishads speak of as 'aham brahmasmi'.

Here is the original sookta in Sanskrit and an English rendering of it:

Aham rudrebhir vasubhis charamyaham adityair uta visvadevaih
Aham mitra varunobha bibharmyaham indragnee aham asvinobha.

I move with the Rudras and also with the Vasus,
I wander with the Adityas and the Vishwadevas.
I hold aloft both Mitra and Varuna,
and also Indra and Agni and the twin Ashvins.

Aham somam ahanasam bibharmi
aham tvashtaram uta pushanam bhagam
Aham dadhami dravinam havishmate supravye yajamanaya sunvate.

I uphold Soma the exuberant;
I uphold Tvasta, Pushan, and Bhaga.
I endow with wealth the offerer of oblation,
the worshipper and the pious presser of the Soma.

Aham rashtri sangamani vasunam chikitushee prathama yajniyanam
Tam ma deva vyadadhuh puritra bhuristhatram bhooryavesayantim.

I am the ruling Queen,
the amasser of treasures,
full of wisdom,
first of those who are worthy of worship.

That me the Gods have installed in many places,
with many homes to enter and abide in.

Maya so annamatti yo vipasyati yah praniti ya i srnotyuktam
Amantavo mam ta upa kshiyanti srudhi sruta sraddhivam te vadami.

Through me alone all eat the food that helps them see,
breathe and hear the spoken word.

He is not aware of me,
yet he dwells in me alone.

Listen, you who know!
For, the words I speak to you deserve your trust.

Ahameva svayam idam vadami jushtam devebhir uta manushebhih
Yam kamaye tam tam ugram krnomi

tam brahmanam tam rshim tam sumedham

It is I who announces the tidings
that the gods and men alike rejoice to hear.

The man I love, I make mighty in strength.

I make him a priest, a sage, or a learned scholar, as I please.

Aham rudraya dhanura tanomi brahmadvishe sarave hantava u
Aham janaya samadam krnomi aham dyava prthivee a vivesa.

I bend the bow for Rudra that his arrow may slay the hater
of the words of sacred wisdom.

I rouse the people, and make them strive.
I have entered the Earth and Heaven, filling everything.

Aham suve pitaram asya murdhan mama yonir apsu antah samudre
Tato vi tishthe bhuvananu visvotamum dyam varshmanopa sprsami

I give birth to the creator
in the heavens
atop the world
and my own origin
is deep in the ocean,
in the cosmic waters.

From there
I permeate all existing worlds,
and even touch yonder heavens
with my forehead.

Ahameva vata iva pra vami arabhamana bhuvanani vishva
Paro diva para ena prthivi etavati mahina sam babhuva

It is my breath that blows as the mighty wind,
while I hold together all the worlds.

Beyond the heavens and above the earth I tower,
such am I in my might and splendour.


Incidentally, the Rig Veda has an amazing thirty rishikas -- women seer poets -- whose works have come down to us from that ancient world! I know of no other major scripture, anywhere in the world, from any culture, that contains mystic poetry revealed to women.

Except in the Vedas, nowhere else were women considered fit for such revelations.

How sad, when you think of it!  For it is far easier for women to experience the divine than to man and throughout history there must have existed countless women who have had such experiences. What an irreparable loss for us, their children!



Pujari .:. Priestess

Growing Acceptance of Hindu Priestesses (Pujaris)

Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK

Hindu women spread the word

Women are trained to perform traditional ceremonies

by Lovejit Dhaliwal in Pune

Bright and busy, Sunitee Kadgil is struggling to fit in a number of people who want her to perform Hindu death rites, house-warmings and naming ceremonies.

A Hindu priest, she is one of a growing number of Indian women who are queuing up to learn all about the clergy.

Many of them are trained at the Dyanaprabhodhini centre in Pune, a university city some 190 km south of Bombay.

Jayavantrao Leile is head of the centre and started to run a course for training priests some 10 years ago.

He recalls that even in the inaugural year, there was a considerable show of interest from women. Since then, every year, roughly a third of the intake is from women.

The course itself lasts just four-and-a-half months, and within that time each of the 16 sacraments of Hinduism are taught.

After that, the students are fully qualified to practice.

Eager to learn

Many women like Sunitee Kadgil become involved because they were curious and keen to learn something new.

Others, like Varsha Gadgil, cite more personal reasons.

Her interest stems from a shoddy service performed by a male priest at a ceremony after her father-in-law died, 10 years ago.

"He didn't explain anything and rushed everything," she says. "So, I wanted to learn and explain to people as much of the ceremony as I could."

Sunitee Kadgil remembers the first time she was asked to perform as a priest.

"It was at a relative's house, but even then I was so nervous! I use to refer to my books all the time, but now all that has changed," she says smiling.

Growing acceptance

The concept of a female priest is not a new one.

Nutan Vimal Motilal is also a practising priest and points out that women priests were written about in the sacred Vedic texts.

But later men dominated the profession, declaring that priests could only be male and only from a particular Hindu caste.

"This is actually not true. And it's only recently that people realise that women too are equally entitled to take up the priesthood and women are also being tolerated more," Ms Motilal says.

Women are now more in demand than male priests, she adds.

This is a statement which the head of the Dyanaprabhodhini centre, Mr Leile, endorses.

He has been approached by many - both individuals and temples for women priests.
He remembers an incident when a well-known Pune temple sought women priests to perform a particular rite.

Altogether 21-women went to the temple to perform the rite and Mr Leile says, "the temple officials were so impressed they wanted to use women priests every year".

'Honest and sincere'

Many individuals also seek out women priests.

Prabhakar Balkrishan Karambelkar recently had the sad occasion to call for a priest when his wife died, and deliberately chose a woman priest.

"They were more honest, sincere and the clarity with which they performed the ceremony was also refreshing," he says.

The growing popularity of women priests is also being linked to the fact that men are now attracted to more lucrative careers.

Both Sunitee Kadgil, who has been practising for 10 years, and Nutan Vimal Motilal, who has been practising for two, say they have never had a negative experience.
However, women priest have not been welcomed everywhere.

Many people in rural areas are suspicious of women priests and feel they make the whole ceremony unreligious.

"But once we explain that actually women priests are allowed and use examples from the texts and also from their own everyday lives, they are soon convinced that women priests are as legitimate as male priests," says Ms Motilal.

Because of the popular demand, Sunitee Kadgil has begun classes for women within her community.

She runs two classes with 15 pupils each, who also help and participate in ceremonies that she performs in people's houses.

With men being drawn away from a spiritual career, more and more Hindu women are stepping forward to take on the mantle of preserving their religious tradition.

April 09, 2009

Anju Bhargava joins Presidential Council

President Barack Obama today announced additional members of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The Advisory Council is part of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and is composed of religious and secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds.

Anju Bhargava, president, Asian Indian Women in America, New Jersey

Anju Bhargava, President, Asian Indian Women in America, a Pioneer Community Builder and Management Consultant is Appointed to President's Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The President’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is a Council of advisers to the President on issues relating to the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Including social service provision, community development, social change and relevant public policy issues. The President’s Council will form Taskforces in order to study in depth key topics and make recommendations to the President, White House staff and members of government.

Anju Bhargava is the President of Asian Indian Women in America (AIWA) and has worked extensively in areas such as employment, career development, cultural acculturation, integration, health, education and general welfare to develop a vibrant community.

Ms. Bhargava was the only Indian-American to serve in the Community Builder Fellowship, President Clinton’s White House initiative (1998-2000) where she fostered partnerships, facilitated economic, workforce and business development. For the past 20 years Ms. Bhargava has been the Hindu representative for Livingston's Interfaith Clergy Association and is a member of the Collective Hindu Initiative. She has conducted and participated extensively in interfaith dialogues at the local, state, national and international level.

She is the first Hindu woman Pujari in New Jersey.

Ms. Bhargava is a graduate of Stella Maris College, Madras University, India and Rutgers University (MBA), with training at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, American University, Kellogg, Graduate School of Management and Dale Carnegie Institute.

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