Ahem…Can I Check My Life Account???, Chitra Pournami
It is almost every one of us who wish to land up in the grand comforts of heaven after a tiring life on earth. With angels gliding and people floating over soft, fluffy clouds, that would be life at its best. Sorry, after-life at its best :D. But we all do know that this after life will be given only to the truely deserving. There exists this sharp witted person, who records each and every action of our lives, from the picking up of a pin to the dumping of a girlfriend. And it is only after the tallying of all our sins and good deeds, does give his final recommendation to Yama, the god of death, about our fate for eternity. Three possiblities exist- you get to enjoy in heaven, rot in hell or maybe take another trip to earth. Not a tough call for a multiple choice question. Wonder why they dont ask such in the entrance exams.
Anyway, back to our topic of discussion. This record keeper, like every other god, has one major weakpoint- Devotion. Pamper him with good songs, food and serve him with a true heart, he is bound to increase your stockpile of good deeds for Judgement Day. He is none other than Chitragupta, the first of all of Yama’s attendants, the chief recorder of actions and the maintainer of the mystical Akashic records (a compilation of everyone’s fate sand actions). And we clever hindus, celebrate him and worship him year after year, in the month of Chithirai, when the moon is at its fullest, under the nakshatra of Chitra, during the holy festival of Chitra Pournami.
Chitragupta was created out of sheer necessity. When Brahma created the three worlds and handed over the legions of the dead to Yama Dharma Raja, he also gave Yama the tedious task of punishing or rewarding the souls of people, based on their actions in life. Yama, as every beginner, took up the task with much enthusiasm, little realising the humungousness of the job. Times passed, and mistakes began to happen. He took the lives of young ones and allowed the oldies to live on, he banished the innocent to hell and welcomed the rogues into heaven, and very soon, started receiving hate mails. Having no other go, he did what every confused employee does, report to the Boss.
He rushed to Satyaloka and stood before Brahma, and poured out his tale of tragedy. Brahma sat deep in thought, and looked at him. “I have but one thing to say, lets go to Shiva. He must have a way out.” And together, they left to Kailasha, the abode of the Mother and Father of all creation.
Brahma and Yama bowed low before Shiva-Parvathi and explained the reason for their visit. Brahma lost no time in blaming Yama for his mistakes. “Parameshwara, Yama has been having troubles in keeping the Akashic records. He has been confused with time and has meted out the wrong judgement to the wrong person. The whole of creation now lives in the peril of wrong judgement at the end of their respective times. You only have to show us a way out of this Prabho”, he prayed.
Shiva gave a glance at the Mother, who with the slightest of nods, took up a golden slate and with a chalk drew a handsome man, richly adorned with jewels and gems. Shiva leaned closer to Parvathi and bend down towards the slate. Gently, he blew away the chalk dust to clear up the picture. Lo and Behold, before them stood a man, the very replica of the picture on the slate. He held a stylus in one hand and a thick bundle of palm leaves in the other. Shiva had indeed blown the “Air of Life”, Praana Vaayu, into the picture and given him life.
Shiva nodded at his own creation, and said, “Son, since you were born out of a picture drawn by Shakthi and breathed to life by me, you will be henceforth called as Chitragupta (Chitra-Picture, Gupta- Accountant). Go along with Yama and help him maintain the records of all human activities. At the end of one’s life, it is based on your advice that Yama will offer him the fruit of his actions. You will be respected as an equal to Yama himself. Be loyal, just and be a shining example to all of mankind as the perfect being. My blessings be with you.”
Chitragupta bowed low to his parents and with all humility answered, “Your wish will be my command.” With that he left to Yamaloka. Chitragupta was the best thing that happened to Yamaloka. He was very rigorous and maintained a strict record of the doings of every human and god. Nothing escaped his sharp eye. In the process of maintaining these complicated records Chitragupta gave mankind one of the best gifts ever, the gift of a scripted language. Chitragupta is thought to be the person who introduced the very first scripts. The very gift by which I am get to write this blog and you get to read it.
Once Indra and Indrani, desirous of a progeny, took a long penance unto Shiva. Maheshwara, happy with their prayers then ordered Chitragupta himself to be born to Indrani. Chitragupta, however, immediately looked at his bunch of palm leaves and told Eeshwara, “My lord, Indrani is not destined to have a child. It would be totally improper for me, the keeper of all just records and the assistant to Yama to go against fate and change her destiny. I am sorry to say this but Indrani having a child can just not happen.”
Shiva marvelled at the level of Chitragupta’s knowledge, but he still wanted Indra’s wish to be fulfilled. An idea formed in his mind and he sent for the divine cow, Kamadhenu. Kamadhenu arrived, shining with divine splendour, the ground where her hooves fell radiating light. She came and bowed before Shiva and Chitragupta and stood waiting for her commands. Shiva smiled at her, “Chitragupta, there has been no purer life than Kamadhenu. Will you be born to her?”, he questioned Chitragupta. Chitragupta beamed back, “It would be a honour for me to have her as my mother, my lord.”
Shiva then turned back to Kamadhenu and told her, “Gomaatha, go to Indra’s palace and be Indrani’s pet. Chitragupta will be born to you on an auspicious day. Indra’s palace too will soon echo with the cries of a baby.”
Kamadhenu obediently took shelter in Indra’s palace. Indrani was delighted to have the divine cow and treated her with much respect and love. Days passed, and then Kamadhenu became pregnant with the power of Chitragupta. Indrani was absolutely ecstatic and did all that she could to make the cow as comfortable as possible. Then, on one fine day in the month of Chithirai, when Chandra was gleaming at his fullest extent, and the star of Chitra was on the rise, Kamadhenu gave birth to a beautiful young boy. Chitragupta was born in the palace of Indra, to relieve him of his sadness of being childless. Joy flowed through the palace like an infectious disease. Indrani lifted up the child and with tears streaming down her cheeks, named him Chitragupta all over again.
It is this birth of Chitragupta that is widely celebrated in Tamil Nadu on Chitra Pournami. The Chitra Pournami Vratha is believed to relieve everyone of their sins and problems, just like Chitragupta had alleviated the sadness of Indra and Indrani. People perform two poojas on this day. One happens to be the usual Pournami pooja, that is observed on every full moon day. And the other is the Chitragupta Pooja, done once a year in the sacred month of Chithrai. The Pournami pooja is held at night after moonrise whereas the Chitrgupta pooja is observed in the morning, amidst much ritualistic actions and vedic chanting.
The glory of Chitragupta pooja is extolled in Garuda Purana (Remember Anniyan), where much detail is given to the job of Chitragupta and his possible judgements to the souls. The Purana also states the nature of the pooja that is to be offered to delight Chitragupta and to enjoy his grace. The vratha starts in the morning with sunrise and includes the ritual bath of cleansing oneself both physically and mentally. People should abstain from eating anything until the pooja is done. Once the bath is done, one should approach the household shrine and with a pure heart meditate on the form of Chitragupta. With his form in mind, a picture is drawn of him either on paper or on the floor with the Kolam flour. The picture should show him as a handsome man, richly dressed and having a stylus in one hand and a bunch of Kadjam (palm leaves) in the other. Near this picture, a Kalasha is filled with water, topped with mango leaves and coconut and decorated with flowers. Pens and books are also worshipped on the day and are placed near the kalasha. Some people also have the practice of placing their yearly income-expenditure account before the kalasha.
The pooja essentially consists of reading the Chitragupta Katha and other mantras. People invoke him to reside in the kolam that they have drawn and then ritually invite him to enter the kalasha. They then ask him to forgive any sins that they could have done and bless them with a good year ahead. The naivedya is simple and consists of vada, sweet pongal and fruits. It is customary not to use any milk products on the day since Chitragupta was himself born from a cow. People usually eat curd rice made from buffalo curd without any salt. Charity and good deeds form an important part of the vratha. Throughout the day one should follow the tenets of honesty, loyalty, morality and justice. Observing a full upavasa is also recommended.
The temple of Chitragupta in Kanchi sees huge crowds on that day. It is one of the very few temples dedicated to Chitragupta in India and the only one in Tamil Nadu. This temple was built by a king named Senni, one of the rulers of Kanchi. Kanchi is often highly extolled as “Satyavratha Kshetra”, where the people strictly observe the vow of speaking nothing but the truth. What better place for the upholder of truth to establish his presence? Here Chitragupta gives darshan with his wife Karnaambikai. Also known as Karnaki, she bore him eight sons who are considered to be the forefathers of the Karuneegar community of Karnataka. In the sanctum, Chitragupta is in a standing posture with his book and a writing nail, a sign of ever watchfullness over everyone. On the day of Chitra Pournami, a grand wedding is held at the temple between Chitragupta and Karnaki. Thousands flock to attend the wedding and take part in the special poojas held at the temple. A visit to this ancient temple is considered to wash away all your sins.
This year Chithra Pournami falls on the 8th of May. As usual grand poojas will be held at all the temples in celebration of the festival. To all those who have not known about the Chitragupta Pooja, I think I have told you enough to start it right away.
Remember, it is not just for the day. We all reap as we sow. He is watching our every move. Lets not give him an excuse to push us into hell. A good deed today reaps many tomorrow. Have a good life and perhaps a better afterlife 😀