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Wednesday 13 November 2019

Dhatri Puja On Akshaya Navami: Why The Tree Is Divine

The gods associated with the tree, the occasion of its worship and the rituals associated with it as mentioned in the Skanda Purana

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Tree worship is an age-old tradition. Besides amalaki and tulasi, trees like Ashwattha (fig) Banyan, Bilwa (Aegle marmelos) are revered in daily life. These trees carry religious importance and become an object of worship during special occasions. In the 12th chapter of Kartika Masa Mahatmya section of Vishnu Khandain Skanda Purana, sage Saunaka asks Suta to narrate the glory of Dhatri (aonla or amla) and the special worship performed in the month of Kartika. In the Srishti Khanda of Padma Purana, Lord Shiva explains the merits of amalaki, the fruit to Lord Skanda. On the occasion of Amla Navami or Akshaya Navami, we bring to you the details of Dhatri Puja associated with it.

Origin of dhatri

Once upon a time when the entire characharas were destroyed in a pralaya, when the devas, asuras, serpents and rakshasa were annihilated, Brahma, the Creator, performed a japa of Mahavishnu. As he performed the japa, a deep breath came out of him. Tears of happiness welled up his eyes and fell on the ground. It is believed that the holy tree of dhatri grew from those drops. Finally, when Brahma created human beings, Devas came to the place where dhatri stood. Marvelling at its wonder, everyone wondered, “We do not know what this tree is”. Thus, Amardaki is the foremost among all the trees.

Auspiciousness of dhatri

Even as they were thinking thus, an unembodied speech echoed, “This is the Amardaki tree. Since it is an excellent Vaishnava tree, one will get the benefit of gifting cows merely by remembering it. By seeing it, one gets twice that benefit and by eating its fruits, thrice the benefit. Hence, Amardaki should be resorted to by all means. It is Vaishnavi and is the remover of all sins.  Vishnu is stationed at its root, Brahma above and Shiva is stationed on its trunk. The twelve suns on its branches, the guardians of various quarters stationed on its twigs, 33 crore ordinary devas on its leaves and the maruts are on the flowers and entire prajapatis are established on the fruits. In the month of Kartika, all the tirthas, sages, devas, yajnas resort to the dhatri and abide themselves there. According to Skanda Purana, whatever meritorious deed one performs under the shade of dhatri tree shall multiply manifold.

Amla and Ekadasi Vrata

Amla should be used in food to the satisfaction of Lord Vishnu or at the time of bathing on a day dear to the Lord. Further, while breaking the fast of the eleventh day of each fortnight, merely touching the fruit before feasting atones the person from the sins committed during the seven births. Lord Mahadeva himself narrates this glory of Amalaki to Skanda.

Story of Chandala

Lord Shiva recollects the story of a Nishada. Once a chandala (one who disposes of corpses at a cremation ground) went to a forest for hunting. After killing beasts and birds, the chandala felt hunger and thirst.  He then saw an Amalaki tree full of fruits in front of him, the chandala climbed the tree and ate the best fruit. Nonetheless, he fell suddenly on the ground from the top of the tree. Succumbing to the deep injury, the chandala died.

None of the Yama’s servants or powerful evil spirits and ghosts could comfortably carry or see the dead chandala. Eventually, they began fighting among themselves and none of them could seize the other.  After pondering for a while, they approached a group of sages and shared their dilemma. They continued “We who have been saying ‘this is mine’ are not able to carry that chandala. Why and due to whose powers is he difficult to look at like the sun?”

The sages answered that the Nishada has eaten a ripe Amalaki fruit and thus earned the religious merit. As a result, he has certainly become difficult to look at. He and others who commit sinful acts go to heaven after being purified by eating a dhatri fruit. The sage then advised the evil spirits, ghosts to eat the dhatri fruit to obtain religious merit.

Following the boon and the sagacious appeal from the sages, the spirits that couldn’t stand the sight of the auspicious tree decided to climb the dhatri tree. After climbing the tree, the evil spirits obtained the fruits and ate them. No sooner a chariot came from the abode of Gods and thus the chandala and the evil spirits went to heaven.

Worship

The devotee should worship dhatri on the 14th day in the bright half of the month of Kartika. As Amardaki destroys all sins, on the 14th day of Kartika, the person should resort to the shade of dhatri and worship Lord Hari accompanied by Radha followed by circumambulation of 108 times. After prostrating with eight limbs touching the ground, the devotee should offer oblations to the Lord. Thereafter, feed the priests and offer dakshina according to one’s capacity.

It is believed that even Brahma is not competent to recount the benefit of Amardaki. The grove of dhatri is liked by Lord Hari in the month of Kartika. Whatever holy rites performed in the month of Kartika grows like the seeds of a banyan tree. Hence, it is auspicious to resort to the shade of dhatri in Kartika month and listen to the holy story in front of Keshava. Offering lamps under the shade and he who listens or recites the story is bestowed infinite merits and salvation.

Vanabhojana

Beginning with the dashami on the bright half of Kartika month, dhatri should be restored in all the holy rites of deities and pitrs. On the conclusion of Kartika Vrata, one should celebrate vanabhojana on the fifth, 10th, 11th or on the full-moon day. vanabhojana is performed in an open place (park or forest) where tamarind, baka, pichumanda (neem) mango, ashwattha (fig), kadamba (Neolamarckia cadamba) are all around. The splendid presence of dhatri tree is mandated for the performance of vanabhojana.

It starts with the purificatory rituals followed by the preparation of the altar, homa kunda and the vastupeetha for the worship should be made at the root of dhatri tree. While performing the homa, the moola mantras chanted are adapted from Taittiriya Brahmana and also from the 166th hymn from the 10th mandala of the Rg veda. Like in any other homas, different naivedyas are offered to the principal deity, presiding devas of planets, dikpalas etc. Post-homa, apart from feeding the priests, the devotee should offer perfumes and raw rice grains to them. After prayers, the devotee should circumambulate and offer oblations to dhatri.

It is mentioned that the rite of vanabhojana is dedicated to Lord Krishna and the benefit is the same as that of a thousand horse sacrifices or hundred Rajasuyas.

“There is no other month on a par with Kartika; there is no city equal to Kashi; there is no other Tirtha on a par with Prayaga; there is no Lord greater than Keshava. In the month of Kartika, Radha and Damodara should be particularly worshipped”

— Skanda Purana

Reference sources:
Skanda Purana
Padma Purana

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