Posts Tagged ‘Vedic ritual in Kerala
At 3 am on Thursday, as part of the rites, Panjal Athirathram Yajaman Ramanujan was coronated as Akkithirripad, an honour reserved for the main priest of any Athirathram. Abhishekam is the ritual (after a series of six homams) performed by Adhwaryu before formally christening the Yajaman as ‘Akkithiripad’. Athirathram is seen as the ultimate sacrifice of the Yajaman who commits his entire life to the ritual. After the end of Athirathram, the Yajaman carries the fire from the ritual which will be kept burning at his house. He will perform daily rituals for as long as he lives and this fire will be used to light the pyre when he or his wife passes away. The Yajaman of Panjal Athirathram 2011 is Ramanujan Akkithiripad, 57, from Chembra in Palakkad District. He did his Soma Yaga in Trichur in 2003. He was a priest at the Trikovil Vishu Shetram temple in Chembra before performing Athirathram. He and his wife Dhanyapaththanaadi have three sons Ravindranath, Umanath and Narayanan.
A rite called Sowmyam was also conducted today. Sowmyam is made using Charu (a product made of rice) and is prepared by Prathiprasthhaathan, after which ghee is poured into the Charu and the Thaithareeyas as well as the Saamavedis in the Sadass see their own reflection in the ghee. The Homa Sesham (remains of the offer), if consumed by pregnant women, particularly if she is in the first 2 months of pregnancy, is believed to cause be good for her child. It is also believed that consuming the remains of homam, is good for fertility. Some cases of childless couples bearing children after consuming Saumya have been reported in the past. Hundreds of couples received Saumya today.
The other rites performed during the 11th day of Athirathram include:
Thrutheeya savanam which is recital of Sama stutis, Extraction of Soma juice, Aarbhava Pavamana Sthuthi, Havir Homam, Mahavaiswadeva Sasthram, Agnishoma Sthuthi, Agnimaarutha Sasathram (Sasthram intended for Agni and Maruth, God of wind), Ukthya Stuthis, Ukthya Sasthras, Shodasi Sthuthi (Recited when the Sun is Half set in praise of Indra), Shodasi Sasthram (1000 mantras of 16 words each), Rathri Paryaya Sthuthis, Rathri Paryaya Sasthras, Aaswina Sthuthi and Aaswina Sasthram.
Athirathram entered its tenth day and the rituals will now continue without a break for over 65 hours till it concludes on April 15th in the evening when the yagashala will be set on fire. While the rites will continue through the night on the 12th day (April 14-15), some rites may extend through the night during the next two days.
Among the rites performed on the 9th day, the most significant one was Agni Prayanam, invitation of Agni to the main altar and installing it on the Shianachithi. A homam was performed followed by transportation of all the items including the Mahavira pot and other implements used in the Pravargya in a traditional manner to the Dasapadam (east of the altar). These were then placed on the Shianachithi and arranged in the form of a male human figure, known as Yajnapurusha. The implements used for Pravargya were arranged to symbolise the organs of Yajnapurusha.
Agni was then carried to the new altar and installed in the centre of the bird altar. A long continuous oblation of clarified butter was made into the sacrificial fire through a large ladle and this rite is called Vasordhaara (‘flow of wealth’). During Vasordhaara, ghee is poured continuously into the fire accompanied by chamaka mantram, which is a Yajurveda mantra meant to energise.
Other rites performed include Pravargyam, Upasath Ishti, Subrahmanyaahwaanam, Chithi samskaaram (for purification of main altar), Gharmodwaasanam: (disposal of the pravargya implements), Brahmovdhanam: (preparation of food for Brahma), Vaajaprashaveeyam: an offering of many medicinal plants to the fire praying for cure to all illnesses, Pashuishti (offering of Vaapa, originally comes from goat and now symbolically made with rice and havis) and panchadoham: preparation of milk.
Athirathram entered its sixth day, with almost 50 per cent of the rites completed in the 12-day vedic ritual. The rites conducted today included Pravagyam, offering of milk and ghee for Ashwini Devas in the Mahaveera pot; Upasath(offering ghee for Agni, Soma and Vishnu) and Subhramanya Ahwanam(Inviting Lord Indra).
The third layer of Garuda shaped fire altar was layed
Eight-year- old Sankarnarayanan from Kaapramaarathu mana, a parikrami (assistant) at Athirathram, was part of the rites for the laying out of 3rd layer for Shianachitthi (main bird-shaped altar).
Sankaranarayanan has been studying Vedas for one year now from Brahmaswam Madham (Vedic Research Centre). His grandfather Sankaranarayanan akkithirippad was the Yajaman of an Athirathram in a private function by a family in 2006.
The highlight of the day was Pravargyeisti. In this rite, ghee is poured in the Mahavira pot and burnt. Cow’s milk is added to the pot which causes a tall column of fire. Sometimes the fire could go up to 30 feet. This rite is not meant to be witnessed by women, one of the reasons being the fumes emanating from this homam is not good for women’s health.
The other main ritual performed was Shianachitthi in which the first layer of the bird-shaped altar is laid out. This will be the main altar for Athirathram. The garuda-shaped altar houses positive energy.
Aahawaniyaagni (fire from the first three days of Athirathram) is removed and fresh soil is laid on the chitthi and water purified through mantra is sprinkled on the fresh soil.
Adhwaryu (main Yajur Veda Ritwik who assists the Yajaman) prepares the chitthi
Before the altar is laid out, the ground is prepared and a range of items are buried in the ground. These include lotus leaf, a golden locket, golden shape of a man, wooden material, wooden tortoise, ukha pots, wooden ‘ural’, and five figurines that include the head of a horse, man, bull and goats with and without horn.
After praayaneeya ishti (offerings to the new chitthi), Somasadanam follows where Soma plant is kept in the aasana.
Padhagrahanam: A calf is brought in and it takes seven steps. The area where the calf lays its seventh step is marked
Somakrayam: Purchase of soma from the cart
Adhitheishti: Somalatha is brought in the bullock cart and kept in the peedha
Sakhyam: The Ritwiks’ pledge to work as a team for the success of Athirathram
Upasath: Part of yajaman’s deeksha.
Subrahmanyaaahwaanam: The subrahmanya priest extends an invitation to Lord Indra
Vedikaranam and Kuzhipada: Arrangement of the vedi (platform for the yaga)
Pravargyeishti was repeated in the evening.
Part V: Stages in Yaagam
The rituals are basically related to body. Seventeen priests are required for performing the ‘Agni’. The course of time is 12 days.
First day: Naandeemukham to Saalaapravesham, Deekshaahassu
The Yajamana and his priests enter into the ritual enclosure carrying three sacred fires in pots. The ‘Ukha pot’, the main ritual vessel is prepared from clay.
An animal sacrifice (symbolic) is performed for Vayu.
The five chief priests (adhvaryu, brahman, hota, udgata, and sadasya) are officially selected. Fire is produced by friction.
An isti is performed and is followed by the consecration of (diksa) of the Yajamana (a turban is tied around his head, he is protected by a golden breast plate, he is given a staff and he closes his fists and deprived of speaking (except for recitations), from bathing etc.
The Yajamana picks up the Ukha pot, which is filled with fire, and takes three steps with it.
Second day: Pravargya Samhaaram
The mahavira pot, main ritual vessel of the pravargya, is prepared from clay.
Third day: Yoopam Kollal
A sacrificial pole is made. To the east of the old enclosure , in which the three altars have already been made, the measurements of the mahavedi and of the bird-shaped offering altar are laid out.
Fourth day: Agnichayanam (construction of the Altar)
The new domestic altar replaces the old offering altar one. The adhvaryu consecrates each brick. The fire from Ukha pot is added to the installed fire An introductory istiis performed .The ‘purchased’ Soma stalks are measured , transport in Somacart on the bullock skin. King soma is installed on a throne and an isti is performed in honor of him .Except Yajamana and chanters, sprinkle Soma. The Indra , god’s etc is invited to attend the forth -coming Soma pressing . The first pavargya and Upasad are performed. The seeds are sown in the plowed ground and buried several items like tortoise, the Ukha pot, The hiranmaya Purusha etc…The construction of bird shaped altar started with a stone at the center. All bricks are consecrated by adhvryu. The Pravargya and Upsad performed.
Fourth day to Ninth day : Pravargyam & Upaasath
After the morning pravargya and Upasa , the second, third, fourth layer of the altar is laid on respective days. The evening Pravargya and Upsad follows. Next day, after the morning Pravargya and Upasad ,the fifth layer is laid with svayamatranna in the center. The Yajamana wishes the bricks to turn into cows. Offerings are made to Rudra. The udgata chants around the bird, and a man pours continuous stream of water around the bird, three times. The evening Pravargya and Upsad follows. The implements used in the pravargya are put down on the new altar in the shape of a man .The agni from new domestic altar is installed on the new offering altar. Long continuous oblation of ghee is made followed by other oblation and offerings. The hall of recitation is made .The animal sacrifice is performed.
Tenth to Twelfth day: Suthy Suthyam days and finally Yajnapuchham
The ceremonies from tenth day will continue throughout out the next two days and nights. The tenth day is known as sutya. Pressing of soma begins after the hota’s morning recital and Soma oblations are offered. Some priests including Yajamana crawl in snake like procession on to altar for offering. In the north of altar the three chant bahispavamana-stothra. Numerous rites are performed simultaneously .Fires are installed in hearths in the recital hall also. Eleven animals are sacrificed( 1975 ,only symbolic).Except Acchavaka Soma juice in the sadas. and hota recites sastra recitation. .Like this four Soma sequence are performed. Soma offering is made into the offering fire.
During the pressing on the mid day, gravastut recites Rgveda verses with blind folded cloth in which Soma was wrapped. .The Yajamana is anointed .
The remaining 14 Soma sequences continue through eleventh day ,night upto the dawn of twelfth day. On the twelfth day unnetha priest make two Soma offering for Indra Ancestral rites are performed. The Yajamana and Yajamanapathni take avabhratha bath followed by a concluding isti is performed and final goat is sacrificed(1975 ,only symbolic). The Yajamana installs three fires on his home after returning to the home .He perform morning and evening Agnihothra for the rest of his life!
To Be continued….
Part IV: Yagasala , ritual enclosure
The construction of the Yagasala , ritual enclosure, requires precise measurement .The measurements are derived from the size of Yajamana. So the yagasala become ‘his own’. The Soma rituals are never performed near cremeation grounds, in temples, or on temple grounds. In 1975 a paddy field in Panjal was selected. In 2011 also the rituals are going to be performed in a paddy field, in Panjal
The preparation of Yagasala in progress at Panjal
The ritual enclosure consists of two main areas
The Prachinavamsa or Old hall
The Mahavedi or Great Altar space
1. Domestic altar (garhapathya) a squre shaped altar, with two concentric circles inside.
2. The offerng altar(old)-ahavaniya.
3. The southern altar (dakshinagni)-: Inside there is a rectangle to the north and a semi circle to the south.
4. Vedi: Immediately west of the offering altar is the vedi. It has the shape of an hourglass. The corners are determined by measurement, but the curve by rule of thumb.
5. Utkara: made from clay in the shape of a turtle.
6. Uchchistakhara: a small square made against the northern wall, with a drainage (for washing some utensils).
Content and Image courtsey: http://www.athirathram.org
1. sadas (hall of recitation ): this having two doors on opposite sides.
2. Agnidhriya shed : square shaped.
3. Marjaliya shed : square shaped.
4. A gosala south of patnisala.
5. Abavaniya or offering altar : Built in shape of bird
6. Soma hall.
Inside the mahavedi , the new offering Altar will be built to the east ,in the agniksethra or field of agni.
To the west there are two special sheds:
The Sadas or hall of recitation.
The Havirdhana ( Soma hall ) or Hall for preparing Soma oblations.
The old Hall, The hall of Recitation and the soma hall together called Sala or Enclosure, which is having roofs and supported by 41-pole,of which 22 poles are for Old Hall.
To Be continued…..
Part III: The Garuda-shaped platform
Athirathram is performed either with Garuda-shaped platform, ( chithy) or without this platform. Panjal Athirathram 2011 will have the hearth shaped like the mythical bird “Garuda” or eagle, and made of special bricks laid out to the ancient Vedic measurement.
The Garuda shaped chithy of Panjal Athirathram 2011 is called ‘Panchapathrika’, as Garuda has 5 wings!
Now there are 200 bricks in one layer of platform and there will be 5 layers for the platform. The bricks used for the platform are of 5 different shapes
Five different shapes used to construct the Garuda platform
The basis is Square, “Chathurthi” and all the other four shapes are from the square i.e “Chathurthyardha“, half of the square. “Chathurtheepaadya“, 1/4 th of a square, “Chathurasrapadya” and “Hamsamukhi“.
There will be more than 1100 bricks in total for the platform.
Bricks for the construction of Garuda shaped platform for Panjal Athirathram 2011
To Be continued….
Part II The Vessels and ladles for Athirathram
The Vessels and ladles used for Athirathram are of unusual shapes. Clay and wood vessels are shaped differently to make identification easier. The clay has to be unearthed, kneaded and baked in a particular manner and wood of certain trees used to make the vessels and ladles.
Some of the vessels used are ukha pot. The eight breast-like protuberances, ukha is the main ritual vessel and symbolises Shakti, the womb of all creation. Mahavira, another key vessel used, is made of soil dug out by special equipment, wetted and kneaded with goat’s milk, and mixed in particular proportions of ant-hill soil, Poothika grass, goat’s hair and iron powder.
To be continued……
“While Pyramids, temples, cathedrals and skyscrapers were built and fell into decay, languages and religions came and went, and inumerable wars were fought, the vedas and their ritual continued to be transmitted by word of mouth, from teacher to pupil, and from father to son. What a triumph of human spirit over the limitation of matter and physical body….”
Panjal is all getting ready for “Athirathram”, the 4500 year old Vedic ritual. Athirathram is a 12 day event, a great spectacle and display of learning. Last Athirathram was performed in 2006 at Kizhakkancherry. Panjal hosted the 1975 Athirathram. Panjal Athirathram is planned from April 4-15,2011. Varthathe Trust is organising the event,
So why Yaagam?
The goal of all yaagams is the prosperity of the people at large y energizing and protecting the environment. As Sun is the main supply of energy, fire is considered as the representation of Sun and yaagam is an offer to Fire and inturn Sun, as a God
Banner announcing the Panjal Athirathram at shoranur
Camp in full swing
The Namboothiris participating in Panjal Athirathram are already camping at Panjal and practising the rendition of mantras. The prepration started last August.
Practicing of taittiriyam of Yajurveda by Poothillathu Ramanujan Somayajippadu, who is the ‘Yajamanan’ for the Athirathram and Kapra Sankaranarayanan Akkithiripad, ‘Yajamanan’ of the previous Athirathram
Practicing of Kaushithakam, Rig Veda by Cherumukku Vallabhan Somayajippadu and Naras Parameshwaran Namboothiri!
To be continued…