The next two folds of devotion, go hand in hand and we present them together here. Archana– Worship of God can be done either by offering some external materials like flowers, leaves etc or with strong inner feeling. Archana consists of the physical worship of God in the form of an idol etc, and brings more joy when performed along with the offering of using the correct rituals (upacharas) as prescribed in the ancient scriptures. These rituals consist of procedures like bathing and clothing the Deity, and also offering Him scents, food etc. An essential requirement of Archana is the presence of faith (Shraddha) in the devotee. Archana includes, worshipping through means of offering physical materials like flowers, fruits, nuts, leaves and water. Offering flower petals chanting various names of God is a commonly practised form of Archana in temples and homes alike. Our Scriptures and Gurus have always emphasised that the thought and pure heart are more important than the material being offered. Sri Krishna beautifully puts forth the following verse in the Bhagavad Geetha.
पत्रं पुष्पं फलं तोयं यो मे भक्त्या प्रयच्छति |
तदहं भक्त्युपहृतमश्नामि प्रयतात्मन: || Ch 9: 26||Bhagavad Geetha
If one offers to Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or even water, I delightfully partake of that item offered with love by My devotee in pure consciousness.
We have illustrated the glory of Archana Bhakthi through the famous “Gajendra Moksha“ story in this year’s Golu. Gajendra Moksham ‘The Liberation of Gajendra’ is a Puranic legend from the 8th Skandha of the Bhagavata Puraṇa. When Gajendra offered a Flower and prayed earnestly to save him from the clutches of a Crocodile, Lord Vishnu came down to earth to protect him. Gajendra then attained a form like that of the god (Sarupya Mukti) and went to Vaikuntha with Vishnu.
Vandanam can be described as the humble prostration to the Lord by touching the earth with the eight points of the body (Sashtanga-Namaskara), with faith and reverence, or prostration to all beings knowing them to be the forms of the One God (namaskaar). When one bows down in prostration it is said that our ego is annihilated and we are open to receive the blessings or in modern context open to listen to others with an open mind. Namaskaram , bending down and touching the feet of elders seeking their blessings is an integral part of Bharatiya Sanskruti(culture). We are constantly reminded to give up our ego and surrender ourselves to our ancestors, gurus, elders and the universe to receive their good wishes which helps us learn from their experience.In addition, to spiritual benefits, the posture of Vandanam or Namaskaram has innumerable benefits to the physical body too. Namaskaram is an integral part of Yogasana, and we all know the immense benefits it brings along.For example surya namaskar is proved to help improve the digestive health, reduce anxiety, tone muscles and aid weight loss.
An inspiring example of Vandana Bhakti is Akrura, another great personality in the Srimad Bhagavatam. The great Bhakta Akrura could not contain himself when he entered Vrindavana. He was overcome with emotion and the consequent surge of affection for Krishna resulted in overflowing eyes beginning to shed tears. Akrura jumped onto the land of Vrindavana and rolled around on the earth saying: “Oh! This is the dust touched by the feet of my beloved Lord” (Bhagavatham-10.38.26). We have an interesting example of Vandana-Bhakti illustrated in our Golu this year; one who is constantly prostrating to Sarveshwara(Siva) – Nandeeshwara. Nandi/Nandeeshwara is the divine bull, always present with Lord Siva as his constant companion. He is an exemplary example of this Bhakthi, as he is in constantly paying obeisance to Shiva and is steadfast in being so. Nandeeshwara reminds us that patience and steadfast belief is God through trials and tribulations is of prime importance.