Dandvat Pranam in Hinduism
The term “Dandvat Pranam”, is a way of addressing people with an extreme mark of respect.
This term is extremely popular with the Sadhu Community of India.
When a sadhu or sant meets another sage, he says “Dandvat Pranam”.
So, what does Dandvat Pranam literally mean?
It means “ I bow to you in all humbleness.” This is the mood of the Indian community of sages, all over the northern part.
Similarly, namaskaram is another word, with the same meaning, used commonly in south India.
The term “Danda” (दंड) means a wooden stick and pranam (प्रणाम) means to bow down.
So the literal translation would be bowing down like a stick.
When a stick is kept perpendicular to the ground with one end resting on the ground.
The inner meaning of this word, Dandvat Pranam, is very significant.
In Sanatana Dharma, every individual recognizes the divine inside every other individual.
Whether it be flora, fauna or humans, Paramatma resides in everyone and everywhere.
Bowing down like a stick means to recognize divinity in all. In fact that is the basis of true spirituality.
Hence, Dandvat Pranam signifies surrender, humility and faith in Paramatma, seated within the other individual.
It is our respect, not necessarily for the other person but for the Paramatma seated in the other individual.
Dandvat Pranam in Spiritual Organizations
Being truly spiritual is to see Divinity and surrender in thought, word and deed to that all encompassing Divinity.
Even in spiritual organizations like ISKCON, people greet each other by saying “Dandvat Pranam”.
This is especially common in Gaudiya Math as well, where juniors greet their seniors and Acharyas by saying ‘Dandvat Pranam’.
Now, there are many spiritual benefits of doing Dandvat Pranam in the physical sense.
The posture has both physical and spiritual benefits.
In ISKCON, people also call it Sashtang Dandvat Pranam.
It is another name for Dandvat Pranam.
Sashtang means having all our limbs stuck to the ground, completely horizontal.
The Head, feet, chest, all these organs stick to the ground as we pay obeisance.
Dandavat Pranam in Hindu Pilgrimages
There is a process called Dandavati (दंडवती), which is an offshoot of this Vedic practice of Dandavat.
In Dandavati, people offer respects at holy places or in Dham (धाम The Lord’s Abode on the earthly plane).
People keep prostrating at every step, as they go around in the pilgrimage or while doing Parikrama (परिक्रमा).
Parikrama means circumambulation of a holy site or going round a holy or revered entity during pilgrimages.
Goverdhan Dandavati (गोवर्धन दंडवती) is a famous type of Parikrama or a holy circumambulation process, carried out in the Sri Krishna Abode in Goverdhan.
It is a common practice in many other pilgrimages as well
During the Parikrama, people cover a distance of 21 kms around the divine mountain of Goverdhan.
Now, many people cover the distance by road, in an auto-rickshaw or vehicle etc.
Also, many people walk the distance.
It typically takes 3 to 4 hours to complete the Parikrama.
However, a more austere form of The Parikrama is the Govardhan Dandavati Parikrama.
Dandvati Parikrama Vrindavan Goverdhan
During this process, people carry a portable foam mat along with them.
At a particular point the 21 km path of the Parikrama, the Dandavati begins.
They start doing Dandavat Pranam throughout the path, by prostrating flat, using the foam mat.
During this process, the mountain of Goverdhan also known as Sri Girirajji is on the right-hand side of the person doing the Dandavati.
At the point where the person rises up once again to do the next Dandavati.
So, laying the foam mat for the second time, they again, bend downwards to perform the second Dandvat prostration.
Following this process, people take up oaths to complete the Giriraj Parikrama to have their wishes fulfilled.
It is very difficult to complete the 21 km circumambulation of Girirajji.
So, to whatever the devotee carries out Dandavati around the holy mountain, Sri Giriraji Ji blesses a spiritual aspirant.
During nightfall, the devotee goes back to his accommodation and walks back to the point where he left the Dandavati, the previous day.
He continues his Dandavati journey to complete the 21kms journey, finishing it exactly at the point from where the devotee began his Dandavat Pranam journey.
The process may take anywhere from 3 days to a week to complete.
However, it heavily depends on the capacity of the devotee performing this austerity.
This process is also called “vandanam”(वंदनम) in simple Vraj-Vrindavan terms.
or various purposes people perform Dandvati in Holy Pilgrimages.
Benefits of Dandvati Parkirama
Sages and Seers carry out Dandavati to please the Lord and express their affection towards Girirajji who is a personified mountain incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Certain other common men carry out Sashtang Dandavat as a means to obtain favors from the Mountain deity.
There are people who are struggling with marriage issues or not getting married.
Such people take up Dandavati.
There are other couples who do not have children even after incessant endeavors.
But, through Giriraji’s grace, if the couple successfully perform Dandvati parikrama, covering a distance of 21 kms, their desires bear fruits.
Here the man and the woman perform Dandavati to Girirajji in tandem.
The husband-wife alternate their prostrations going around Girirajji.
However, the woman should ensure that their chest and genitals should not touch the ground.
Women should follow this protocol.
Hence, while doing Dandvati Parikrama, women should sleep side-wards on the ground, while men should sleep frontwards.
By following this process, you’ll gain maximum benefits.
Thus the couple gain the benefit of the Parikrama.
It is not uncommon that Girirajji fulfills the wishes of all who come to Him and offer Sashtang Dandavat around Him.
Such is the efficacy of the Dandavati process.
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