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Love Is A Resurrection: The Story Of Behula
Some details about Manasa Devi
Manasa Devi’s symbol is the sun rising over a half moon, but this half moon is in a horizontal position – flip the letter C to the left or just imagine smiling. Before the advent of the Prophet Muhammad, people in what are now Islamic countries worshiped the moon god or moon goddess. Some say that this is how the sun symbol with the moon came to Islam, and thus the national flags of Islamic countries. The Islamic tradition is to draw a crescent moon in the position of the letter C. Just turn this letter to the left and see Moon Goddess smiling at you.
Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: “Among the stars I am the moon”. As you can see, the moon has always had a strong influence on the thinking of different cultures. Manasa Devi, despite being a cobra goddess, is strongly associated with the moon and we can accept her as a moon goddess.
Devi Bhagwat Purana says, “The color of the mind is white like a white champaka flower”. Her physical manifestation in nature is a very rare white cobra. This valuable and rare snake lives in pairs. Both spouses, the Shweta Naga Jodi, assume a human form, resplendent in splendor on the full moon night.
At the temple of 64 Yoginis in Hirapur you will find an idol of a goddess named Ranveer/Padmavati; She is standing on a snake. Manasa Devi has other names: Jagatkaru Priya, Jagat Gauri, Manasa Devi, Siddha Yogini, Padmavati, Nag Bhamini, Shaivite, Jaratkaru, Astik Mata, Mahagyan Yukt, Nageshwari, Vish Har and maybe some more. Astik, an ancient Hindu rishi (a sage), is the son of Manasa whom she conceived with Jaratkaru. Jaratkaru was a legendary sage. That is why you will often see the name of Jaratkaru or Astika with a variation of the name of Manasa. Astik, son of Jaratkaru and Manasa, was a great sage. At a critical moment in the past, he helped prevent the genocide of the ancient Naga people of India.
The serpent goddess also has a place in the Vedas, especially in the Rigveda Brahmanas (the Brahmanas are commentaries on the Vedas and belong to them). You will also find references to snake worship in Yajurveda and Atharvaveda.
Manasa Devi sometimes descends to earth to gain devotees, as people have not always accepted her. Sometimes she uses her magical powers. If she fails, she inflicts calamities on those who reject her magic. She succeeded in converting people from various walks of life and thus she has been preserved in world mythologies as Moon Goddess and Serpent Goddess. Hecate, the Egyptian moon (and birth) goddess, was one such psyche counterpart.
Manasa Devi is also a fertility goddess, because like the tea cup, the moon and fertility are associated with each other. Moon influences women’s menstrual cycle and their fertility. Women are traditionally (if they stay in tune with nature) most fertile during the full moon.
Manasa Devi was the first pre-Vedic deity and her worship was ancient in Bengal. However, in ancient times snake worship was widespread not only in Bengal but also in other parts of the world. The Slavic peoples have their own mother divine with the attributes of a snake woman, and their ancient symbol of the earth was the white snake.
Christianity developed in parts of the world where there are no deadly snakes like Asia. Christians should understand that tribal people need to protect themselves from snakebite on all fronts and hence choose spiritual guidance against these deadly bites. So Mansa is traditionally the queen of cobras. Some sources say that she came to Bengal with the Dravidians who worshiped her in the hope that she would mother strong children.
Manasamangal Kavya – Story of Manas
Manasamangal Kavya tells the story of how Manasa worshiped her in Bengal. It is the oldest of the Mangal-kavyas, a group of Bengali Hindu scriptures. It was written sometime after the 13th century and mentions other indigenous deities of rural Bengal.
Mangal kavya are devotional Bengali poems dedicated to rural deities. Among these I may mention the folk deity Dharmathakur. Their worship is also based on caste conflict, as orthodox Brahmanism deprived the lower castes of the right to receive Brahmanical education.
Chand Sadgar was a rich merchant. When Manasa descended to earth, she succeeded in converting new devotees, but failed to convert Chand, an ardent Shiva and Chandika devotee. She collided with his resistance in such a rage at Chand that she finally destroyed all his children and left him devastated.
However, still the aggrieved merchant did not accept Mansa. Instead he decided to start a new life with the same attitude and became Lakhinder’s father. Fearing Mansa, he tried all possible measures to prevent deadly snakes from entering his house, but the snake goddess Mansa was smarter. She asked two celestial beings (apsaras) for help and persuaded them to be reborn as humans. One Apsara was born in the body of Chand’s younger son Lakhinder, while the other Apsara was born as the daughter (Behula) of Saha, Chand’s business partner. Mansa knew that these two would change Chand’s stubborn mind. Thus the bride came to life. Both Behula and Lakhinder were devotees of Manas.
As the bridegroom and Lakhinder go to bed on the wedding night, Manasa enters the bedroom in the form of a snake and kills Chand’s younger son. It was hard for Behula both to see her husband dead and to know who asked this, but her love for Mansa did not diminish.
Lakhinder’s body was not cremated as it was customary to send anyone who died of snakebite on a raft down the river. This practice was based on the belief that such a person would miraculously come back to life. In European mythology the snake is a symbol of immortality and is currently a symbol of medicine around the world. The bride did not leave her husband alone and accompanied him on the raft. They sailed for months and passed village after village.
A dead and rotting corpse must look horrible. Seeing Behu constantly praying to Manas, the villagers thought she had gone mad. The raft finally reached the place where Neta, Manas’ helper, was working as a washerwoman. When she hears Behula’s repeated prayers for Mansa, Neta uses her magical powers and communicates with Mansa. Behula also participated in it. The only thing Mansa needs to bring Lakhinder back to life is for Behula to agree to cooperate with Chand’s continued conversion. After Behula confesses, Lakhinder’s decaying corpse suddenly undergoes a complete rebirth and Lakhinder comes back to life.
Behula then told Chand everything about Mansa and Lakhinder. Chand could do nothing but agree to worship Manas. However, when he went to her temple, he refused to see the face of her idol. This gesture pleased Manasa so much that she revived all the sons of Chand and restored their fortunes. Mangal Kavyas say that the worship of Manasa became more popular after this. Chand worshiped her with his left hand because he could not forgive her for the pain he had caused her. However, Mansa did not block anything against him for that.
Chand lived in Champak Nagar (now located in the Indian state of Assam), where you can find various ancient ruins. Some of them date back to the 6th or 7th century AD. Inscriptions on them indicate their connection with the story of Behul.
Dhubri in Assam is a place where Neta, the other half of Mansa lived.
The above story is one of the most impressive love stories without parallel in the world’s cultural heritage. I have a Christian friend who told me that love is stronger than death. I believe so too. As you can see in the above story of the bridegroom, love is really resurrection.
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