Friday, 2 September 2011

Grass in Hindu Mythology

Blades of grass are a key ingredient in Hindu rituals. In Hindu rituals, grass plays an important role. Rings made of grass are often worn before starting either the ritual of Hom (offerings via fire) or Poojaa (flower offerings). It is said to purify the participants. Grass is used as offering. At Ganesh Jee's Temples, offerings of blades of grass is very common. Use of grass in rituals dates back to Vaidik times, which is 1500 BC by the most conservative estimates. But this grass is not the ordinary grass. This is a special grass which is variously known as Kush and Doorvaa grass.

Scholars and priests are not yet clear if they refer to two separate species of grass or the same grass. No one is absolutely sure what the species of grass is. The grass used is different in different parts of India. Species identified with sacred grass include Cynodon dactylon, Desmostachya bipi-nnata, Imperata cylindrica and Panicun dactylon.

The unique feature associated with Kush grass is that they have sharp edges. The unique feature associated with Doorvaa grass is that they are hardy plants, great survivors, whose roots go deep in search of water. Pluck a blade of grass and they sprout back, making them powerful symbols of regeneration, renewal, rebirth, fertility, hence prosperity. This is why this grass is offered to house-hold gods like Ganesh, and not to hermit gods like Shiv.

Some say that this grass represents the hair of Brahmaa; others say it is the hair of Vishnu. In one folk variant of the Raamaayan, it is the hair of Seetaa as Seetaa entered the earth, distraught Raam tried to hold on to her but could only catch a few strands of her hair that turned into Kush grass whose sharp edges cut His fingers.

(1) This grass is used in sacrifices (Hom, Havan etc). Braahman make its ring and wear it in their hand.

(2) Some blades are collected together and tied with another Kush grass blade, this bunch or betel leaf is used to sprinkle water on gods' idols and other sacrificial items.

(3) Blades of grass have been converted by Rishi into potent missiles to kill demons and errant kings. Rishi created a missile using Kush grass to kill the wicked King Vane. Balaraam Jee also killed Soot Jee (Romharshan Jee) by creating a missile of Kush grass only while he was on his Teerth Yaatraa during Kurukshetra war.

(4) Blades of Kush grass have also been used to make Aasan (mat for sitting) to sit for worship., because this grass is regarded holy.

(5) Whenever Seetaa had to talk to Raavan during her days in Lankaa She is said to have placed a sacred grass between Raavan and herself, warning him never to cross this grass. If he did, his head would burst into a thousand pieces. This made the grass the Seetaa Rekhaa that prevented Raavan from crossing the line of propriety with the faithful wife of another man.

(6) Another folk narrative states that Seetaa gave birth to only one son called Lav. One day, she left the child in the care of sage Vaalmeeki and went to the forest to collect firewood. While she was away, the child wandered off. Vaalmeeki, not finding the child, became tense. He took Kush grass, turned it into a doll and using his magical powers created another son, who was in the very likeness of Lav, so that Seetaa is not worried about Her son. So when Seetaa came back She took Kush as Lav, of course later Lav also came back. Since Kush was created in the image of Lav both looked like twin brothers.
(6) Some say that the Doorvaa grass became sacred as drops of Amrit fell on it during the churning of the ocean of milk. This is why that grass is immortal. Another story tells us that the pot containing Amrit was placed on Kush grass which is why it was immortal. This pot of Amrit was brought down from heaven by the eagle, Garud, as the price of his liberation; he was enslaved by his step-brothers, the snakes. After having secured the nectar from Amraavatee, the city of the gods, Garud placed the pot on a ground covered with green grass. As the Naag moved towards the pot intent on drinking the nectar, Garud said, "It is considered improper to drink this divine liquid without taking a bath or at least rinsing your mouth."

The Naag agreed and so rushed to the river to take a dip. When they were away, the pot on the grass was left unguarded. Indra descended and took the pot back to Amaraavatee. "Why did you not stop him?" asked the Naag on learning of the theft. "Oh," said Garud, "Was I supposed to guard Amrit also? But I am not your servant anymore. You set me free remember." The Naag realized Garud was right. They could do nothing. They had lost their chance to sip the nectar of immortality. They rolled on the blades of grass on which Amrita had been placed. As a result, they acquired the magical ability to shed their skin and replace it with a new one; this ensured they never grew old. They also licked the blades of Kush grass hoping to get at least a drop of the celestial drink but the edges were so sharp that they split the serpents' tongues.

(7) Another story is also related to Amrit. When Vishnu in the form of Mohinee Avataar cut the neck of Raahu, there was a lot of havoc in the Devtaa and Asur assembly. Mohinee had kept the Amrit Kalash down on the ground to kill Raahu, so Asur ran to it to grab it. Garud saw this, lest Asur drink it, he took the Kalash immediately and ran away from there. He kept running from Asur for 12 human years. During his flight, he kept the Kalash at four places - Ilaahaabaad, UP; Haridwaar, UP; Naasik, Mahaaraashtra; and Ujjain, MP. And all the time he kept it on the holy Kush grass. During this process some Amrit splashed at thee places where today we celebrate Kumbh.

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