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What is Karmkanda?

Piyaray Lal Raina

Samarpan – 2nd installment

Before going into the details of how the worship is conducted and the logic behind various kriyas (actions) I feel it will be better to let the younger generation know about how the concept of worship developed into its present form.

We humans are strange beings. Our intelligence is far above the normal intelligence of our fellow animal beings into which biological science has classified us together. To put it in empirical terms  human  brain cavity, which is the measure of intelligence is  around 1200 CCs , that is,  four times the tiger (300 CCs), the most swift and ferocious animal and three times the elephant (400 CCs) the most intelligent animal next to a human beings. 

It is our intelligence which drives our curiosity to know and understand the movements of Universe around us. Our desires, attachment, fears etc. are all due to our responses to our well being which are guided by our intelligence. Think of a lamb being driven towards slaughter house with a pack of green grass in its front. The intelligence of animals is limited to just for survival on the day to day basis. We bother about not only about our well being but for our several generations down the line.

Yet our intelligence is far far limited to understand all that makes things move in such uniformity and regularity at macro and micro level.  Look at the structure of the all pervading Universe, as we understand it now, and the structure of the minutest atom –they both have same pattern. The electrons move around the nucleus in the same way as various Planets move around Sun and Sun moves around bigger object in the galaxies.

Our ancients made these observations long back before they learned how to read and write. In India our Vedic seers recognized the cosmic powers behind the various cosmic activities as Devas.  These  Devas,33 in number, were described as custodians of cosmic order (rta) which is indicated by the regular alteration of day and night ,the waning and waxing of Moon ,the flow of river water from upper slopes to lower slopes. There was no concept of god then, nor did they visualize these forces as having any form.  They just described   them as sentient Beings. Thus Indra Deva was recognized as the most powerful being that controls all cosmic activities which bring timely rain on Earth which in turn made cultivation of crops possible. RudraDeva was describes as the cosmic power which ensures regularity of movements of cosmic bodies such as Sun, Moon, planets etc. AgniDeva, who provides heat for growth of crops. VarunaDeva was recognized as holder of water bodies such as oceans, rivers, and lakes etc which are essential for human survival. Like that VayuDeva for winds and host of other Devas were described as custodians for human survival on planet Earth. The whole cosmic world was divided into three regions called lokas:Dhyo loka, Prithvi loka and Antariksh loka. Devas live in Dhyo loka which is up in the sky, our Earth is Prithvi loka and the region between Earth and Dhyo loka is Anteriksh loka where malicious beings called Asuras live. Females were not given any roles though they were recognized as mothers, sisters, daughters of Devas and Asuras

A liturgy was later on developed to praise these Devas for their beneficial acts. Offerings of the farm produce called bhoga were made to these Devas through AgniDeva who was recognized as carrier of these bhogas to Devas as he lived simultaneously in all the three lokas: as Sun in the Dhyo loka, as fire in the Prithvi loka and as lightening in the Anteriksh loka. Thus  AgniDeva was invoked by lighting fire in a pit at a clean place in the ground and offerings for Devas were made into this  fire with the recitations of mantras from Vedas which came to known as yagnya (sacrifice) Yajur Veda describes in detail the methodology for performance of yagnya and other rituals. 

Over a period of time, in the post Vedic time around 2500 years back  Vedic philosophy was described in detail on the basis of Upanishads. It was at this time that god was recognized as the Supreme  Power controlling not only Devas but the whole Universe. God was described as transcendental power which is beyond human description but for manifestation of Universe god adopted an immanent aspect. Two different schools of thought describe manifestation. One school of thought described god as Brahman (in His transcendental aspect) and as Ishwara in His immanent aspect.  Ishwara further down the line is projected as Brahma (in His manifestation aspect), Vishnu (for maintenance of Universe) and Mahesh or Shiva (for dissolution of world at the end of certain number of years called epoch). This school of thought came to be known as Vaishnavism. The other school of thought recognized Parmshiva as the Supreme Power in His transcendental aspect and Shiva in the immanent aspect who created Universe through His energy power Shakti. This school of thought came to be known as  Shaivism

While Devas had neither form nor temples for worship, the post Vedic gods were given definite anthropomorphic forms and temples to live in. The attributes of gods came to be depicted by iconography. Thus, these gods were depicted as seated on a lotus (sign of purity), having number of arms (sign of strength), many heads (sign of control over directions and so on.  The methodology for worship, while retaining the original Vedic liturgy and yagnya concept, developed into diverse ways which in due course of time adopted regional pattern which came to be known as Karmkanda.

The karmkandas of various regions of India have been upgraded from time to time to suit the needs of living generation. The Karmkanda followed by Kashmiri Pandits has been written by one learned brahman known as Lorareshi, perhaps in 17/18 century. It is almost lost now but our learned priests have retained  relevant portions  of this book which they use for conducting   ritualistic pujas on various occasions. Time has come to upgrade our karmkanda to suit modern needs. We need to work on it.

Kashmiri Writers P.L. Raina

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