In the previous episode we witnessed that Sage Vishwamithra takes along the children Rama and Lakshmana via the “Thaatakaa Vanam”. In that, we saw the historical background of that place and how the demon by name “Thaataka” destroyed the beauty of the place and made it uninhabitable. In due course of yesterday’s episode we also saw the meaning of three important terms – “Avidhya” (Blemish or senselessness) “Kaama” (Desire) and “Krodha” (Anger) and how do they affect our every lives every passing day. In today’s episode, we shall discuss about a very important ritual in Hinduism called “Aavani Avittam” and what is the significance behind it.
To be very simple, “Aavani Avittam” is a religious ritual that is performed by the Brahmin community all across India. The significance of this ritual is to chant Veda manthras and replace the old sacred thread (“Saarani” in Hindi, “Poonool” in Tamil) with a new one. Different sub-sects within the Brahmin community perform this ritual in different days according to their own tradition. However, a majority of the sub-sects perform this ritual in the month of “Aavani” (A month in the Tamil Calendar, which normally falls somewhere during the English month of August) and in the day when the “Nakshathra” (Star) of “Avittam” falls. This day is a very auspicious day for performing this ritual. Now the second question arises as to why do we perform this ritual. To explain in simpler terms, the primary job of a person who is born in a Brahmin community is to learn and recite the Vedas (“Veda Adhyayanam”). According to the Hindu scriptures, there is a specific date in the calendar year to commence learning of the Vedas and to stop it. However, out of immense interest in learning and reciting the Veda text, people may forget to stop learning it and continue the process even after that particular day.
This meaning can be seen in the “Sankalpa” manthra (The beginning of the ritual) and we shall further explore the meaning of it. The manthra goes like this as follows:
“… Nithyaatheertha akarana praayachithaartham.. Samvatsara praayachithaartham.. Thaishyaam pournamaasyaam.. Adhyaaya utsarjana akarana praayachithaartham…”
The manthra says that the “Veda Adhyayanam” should have ideally been stopped by the “Thai” month (Somewhere around the third week of January) and the “Pournami” (Full moon) day (“Thaishyaam pournamaasyaam”). Here the word “Utsarjana” means, “to stop”. Thus, the above manthra means “Since the “Adhyayanam” did not stop at that day (“Adhyaaya utsarjana akarana”) I’m paying my apologies for it!”(“Praayachithaartham”).
Immediately upon hearing this, someone told me “If this is the case, we needn’t do all these manthras and rituals and there is no necessity behind this!” I was curious and asked him why. He continued his answer by saying, “Only if we had started to learn and recite the Vedas, should we do this ritual…. 🙂 We have not even started to learn the Vedas yet and how can you make us say that we need to stop reciting the Vedas on this day?” 🙂 Such is our situation in the modern day!
There is one more important point to be stressed in this context – Whenever we perform a religious ritual like this, it is advisable that we perform them without eating/drinking anything before the ritual. The ritual might be anything – Right from this “Aavani Avittam” to “Shraadham” to whatever. There is a trend picking up in the modern day wherein people consume coffee before the commencement of the ritual. This atleast is better. There is a worst case too – Some of them consume coffee even halfway while performing the ritual. My point of view on this is that, it is not advisable for us to do this. According to the Shaastras, we should not consume anything while performing the ritual. If we still do it, we should understand that it is equivalent to not performing the ritual at all. We would rather be accumulating our sins, instead of washing them away. There might immediately be an argument that what if the person is diabetic or a Blood Pressure patient? Some might argue that if they do not consume food periodically at the right time, it would deteriorate their health condition. Of course, for those people who have health problems, the Shaastraas gives them certain relaxations. But however, if people who are free of health problems follow those relaxations, then Shaastraas wouldn’t allow that! For instance, we do this ritual called “Shraadham” for our parents after they pass away. The Shaastraas prescribe eight categories of performing the “Shraadam”. The first category of “Shraadham” is the one which people with good health condition, abundant wealth and all other facilities should do and this is the normal way of doing it. However, if we are in short of money, health, etc. the subsequent categories of “Shraadham” talk about exceptions for each of the shortcomings. In the extreme case wherein, a person gets stuck up in a small island and he doesn’t even know the directions around him and does not have any facility to perform the “Shraadham”, there is the eighth category, which says that if you open up your arms and cry, saying that “Oh my dear parents! I’m stuck up in this unknown and uninhabited island and I’m unable to do anything for you!” – This itself is considered to be the “Shraadham”. Upon hearing this, if a person who has all the facilities like money, health, etc. wants to follow this eighth category of “Shraadham”, it is really bad and unfortunate, and the person would have to face dire consequences in life. I shall talk about the ill consequences of not performing these kinds of rituals in subsequent episodes when the right context comes.
Hence, the lesson to be learnt from today’s episode is that, we should start learning our Vedas and scriptures by allocating some time in our daily schedule. Of course I understand that we have our own priorities in our lives, however somewhere down the line, we need to cultivate that interest to allocate atleast a little bit of our time to focus on our rich culture and values. This is extremely important and this is the reason why I’m repeating this point and emphasizing it in many of our episodes.
In the next episode, we shall see the very important event of “Thaataka-Vadham” (The killing of the demon Thaataka) by Lord Rama. Stay tuned!