The ATHIRATHRAM, the Supreme Shroutha Soma Yagam was facilitated and organized, from Saturday the 21st April,2012 to Wednesday the 2 ndMay,2012 at Bhadrachalam by management of SAMATHA LOKSEVA SAMITHI under the the stewardship of Bahu Yagna Kartha- Jyotisha-Muhurtha-Smaartha & Vaasthu Consultant Brahmasri. KESAPRAGADA HARIHARANADHA SARMA and his staunch followers for the first time in recent century’s history of Telugu speaking areas through the famous NAMBOOTHIRI SECTS of KERALA, at an estimated heavy expenditure.
Introduction: The goal of all Yaagams is the prosperity of the people at large by energizing and protecting the environment. The Sun is considered as the main source of energy supply, and fire is considered as a representation of the Sun’s energy. According to the ancient texts on Yaagam, any offer to Fire as a god, is actually an offer to Sun. Any such offer is either to enrich energy in the environment or to destroy the undesirable elements in the environment, and thus, in both ways, environment is protected. Attaching divine nature to such rituals (like Yaagam) induced people to practice them. Thus, the ancient texts proclaim that “Such Vaidika Karmams are result-oriented, and meant to lead to Sreyass or spiritual attainments”. The technical procedures for such Karmams (rituals) are detailed in ancient texts like the Braahmanams and Sroutha Soothrams. More important than the learning and understanding of the concepts, is the actual performance of such Karmams. In other words, the “performer” spreads more Sreyass to the world than the texts (Granthhams) themselves.
Athiraathram (Agni): Athiraathram is considered as the biggest Somayaagam performed in Kerala as other bigger Somayaagams are not usually performed by a Namboothiri. It is a 12 day ritual. Only those who have performed Agnishtomam (click here to know more about its Detailed Programme) is eligible to perform this somayaagam.
Any person, attending this performance, is supposed to know how it is performed. Those who intend to attend this Somayaagam are adviced to keep a copy of this article. Only very important points are included in this article.
This 12 day ritual has its first 3 days meant for Deekshaahassu, and then 6 days of Upassaddinangal. The remaining 3 days are meant for the most important part of Athiraathram, namely, the Suthyam. Each layer of the altar is constructed daily and thus the five-layer altar will consume as many days commencing Day-4 (to day-8). The altar consecration is done on day-9. Suthyam days would commence in the evening of the 10th day which will continue till the end of the Athiraathram, uninterrupted.
The objective of Yajamaanan at this stage of Athiraathram) is to obtain the right to do Deeksha, by performing some rituals. Also, Agnisthomam formally begins with these rituals. Most of the following rituals have accompanying manthrams from Rigvedam, Yajurvedam or Saamavedam. All manthrams and Bramhanaas for the construction of Altar are taken from the 14 portions (starting with portion 20) of the Yajurveda. Plus, the manthrams and Bramhanams from 13 other portions of Yajurveda needed for performing Dasapoorna maasam ritual, Agnishtomam are also needed for Athiraathram.
6AM – 7.30AM (if this is a Prathipadam day): Darseshti, the fortnightly ritual for Yajamanan, as a Somayaaji
7.30AM-10.30AM: As the prelude to Athiraathram, the following are to be performed.
- Take measures, symbolically, for the purpose of the forthcoming Altar construction. After Ganapathy Nivedyam, the Yajamaanan ( along with his wife) has to stand up by keeping his hands up, and perform this ritual by marking three points (one each at the tip of the Paambu viral, tip of the hair and at the knee cap on his leg) on his body. The respective lengths are measured. All future measures for the entire Athiraathram are generated from these lengths.
- Collect raw materials (to prepare utensils like Ukha) in a 40ft by 20 ft area near the saala.
Note: Alternatively, prior to Athiraathram, rituals 1 & 2 above can be done on any Deva Nakshathram [star] in the Velutha Paksham on which Utharaayanam also falls
- Perform Nandeemukham there
- Consecrate the rithwiks namely Adhwaryu, Brahman, Prathiprasthaathan. Here, the Yajamaanan is designating experts to these three posts, temporarily. The permanent designation will be done later in the evening.
- Chant Eda, and throw Samya eastwards. Samya is a small wooden log made of Karingaali wood)
Now it is time for collecting divine mud from the place where the Samya lands. The following ( 6 to 13 ) are part of it.
- Prepare Kharam
- Bring the horse and donkey.
- Consecrate ghee
- Perform Savithri Homam
- Prepare Abhhri, a bamboo, 5 to 6 feet of length, pointed at both ends, consecrated with divine fire. This is a digging tool.
- Garland the horse and donkey with the grass-string.
- Bring the horse to the collected mud and strengthen the mud with the horse’s feet. Pat the horse and send it to the eastern side of the venue.
- Lubricate the earth, place gold there and perform two homams before digging there using Abhri. Collect the mud systematically from 4 different locations there.
- Consecrate Krishnaajinam with lotus petal and then with the collected mud
- Load the donkey with the mud, send it along with the horse to the western side
- Unload the mud. The Prathiprasthaathan prepares three Ukhas and eight bricks of specific measures. Ukha is a mud pot of peculiar design, the base of which is that of Uruli, the top, that of Kolaambi, with a stand of length one Chaan. It can contain two naazhis of rice. All these products are seasoned (symbolically) with the smoke of burnt horse dung.
Note: For the manthrams of the above, refer to the first six chapters of second part of the Thaithireeya text. For the respective Braamhanam, refer to the first six chapters of 27th part.
11 AM – 4 PM: As the prelude to Athiraathram, the following also are to be performed.
- Designate the first 6 rithwiks, including the three rithwiks referred above. The other three are Hothan, Maithraavarunan and Aagneedharan.
- Wearing the brand new cloths and Uthareeyam by the Yajamanan as well as wife
- Placing the Oupaasanaagni in place.
- Preparing ghee and perform Shad-Hothru homam & Koosmaada homam, pre-requisites of the forthcoming Vaayavyam Pasu ishti. Note that, the Deeksha of Yajamaanan refers to the control of his senses (Indriyam) upto a much higher spiritual level. Deeksha is mandatory to perform the most important parts of any Yaagam. It starts with Hothru-Homam, and Koosmaanda-Homam (to remove all the accumulated sins in life). The yajamaanan and wife consume the remains of this offer.
- Yoopam Kollal
- Measuring the “ Vedi “, the main portion of Yagasaala (Symbolic) for performing Vaayavyam Pasu Ishti
- Commencing the Vaayavyam Pasu Ishti, a prime offer
Note: Alternatively, prior to Athiraathram, the Vaayavyam Pasu Ishti can be done on any Deva Nakshathram [star] in the Velutha Paksham on which Utharaayanam also falls.
- Preparing the “ Vedi “
- Other rituals like Sruk Sammarjam, Pathnee Sannahanam, Aagrahanam, Cleanse the Yoopam and so on, up to Sakthu Homam, as part of the Vaayavyam Pasu Ishti.
4 PM – 12 midnight: Here starts the Athiraathram. After external purifications like the traditional bath, Aachamanam, Naandeemukha-Punyaaham, etc. and internal purifications through Praanaayamam, etc., the Yajamaanan performs rituals seeking blessings from teachers and elders, and from God for making him remember the essential texts of Thaithireeya, Kausheethaka and Saama Chadangu (ritual procedures). He then designates the remaining rithwiks, obtains Sakhyam (Camaraderie) of Rithwiks, that enables him to create fire from the Arani (a traditional and crude mechanism for fire creation) and later for Aavaahanam of the fire back to the Arani. After these and a few other rituals, the Yajamaanan and the Rithwiks concentrate on the expected results of the process, enter the Yaagasaala with all the necessary items, make the fire from Arani, and deploy the fire in the required locations.
After these, the Yajaamanan chants Ida, does the consecration of a special ghee (named Apoorvam), performs the rituals like Saptha-hothru homam, Koosmaanda homam, and finally consumes its remains along with the wife. He then performs Afsudeeksha. He then shaves, takes bath, wears new cloths, applies butter on the body, blackens the eyelids, purifies the body with Dharbha which are followed by the important Deekshayaneeyeshti for three gods namely Agni, Vishnu and Athidi, using (eleven Kapaalangalil Sravichha) Purodaasam (a special food item, made from powdered rice), as Havissu (offering).
At the end of several other rituals and procedures (Deekshaahuthi, receiving Krishnaajinam, Dandu etc., and preparing fire in Ukha which is then placed in Uri and ties to yajamaanan’s neck etc.) after sunset, the Yajamaanan is declared as a Deekshithan. The Adhwaryu then preaches to the Yajamaanan the importance of Deeksha, during which he should control his senses, language (Sanskrit), conversation, should not tell lies, laugh, itch fan/cool the body (for relief from heat), remove Krishnaajinam till Avabhrathasnaanam (on the 12th day) and so on. This is usually followed by the ritual, Sani, involving formally getting and keeping the Dakshina Dravyam (items for alm). (In Athiraathram, it could be postponed to the next day morning.) Then Vratha Dohanam ( milking the cow, and boiling the milk, all with the accompanying manthrams) and Vratha Paanam (consumption of the boiled milk), twice. Vratham is the milk for the consumption of the Yajamaanan and the Pathni (Yajamaanan’s wife).
The rituals, Vrathadoham, Upasthaanam to the fire in Ukhi, Pravargya Sambhaaram, the formal collection and Samskaaram of the items required for Pravargyam. etc. Vrathadoham & Vrathapaanam are done in the after noon and at night.
The rituals, Vrathadoham, Vishnu Kramanam, Upasthaanam to the fire in Ukhi, Yoopam Kollal, conceptualisation of the brick design, measuring the place of installation etc. Vrathadoham & Vrathapaanam are done in the after noon and at night
2.30AM – 4.30 AM: Madhyaagni Chayanam, an important ritual of removing the eastern fire place and installing a new fire place (named Gaarhapathyam) on 5 brick layers with 21 bricks per layer. Later, this is consecrated with fire by Adhwaryu and Prathiprasthaathan. Two horses, one black and one white, are needed on the east side of brick installation. It follows the morning bath and Sandhyaavandanam.
7 AM – 9.30 AM: Here starts Praayaneeyeshti (An important Ishti). Praayaneeyeshti is a ritual to offer Havissu to five gods. The Havissu (item to offer) here is Charu for Adithi and Ghee for the other four gods. Charu is basically Nivedyam but made in a ritualistic manner. Somasaadanam is done in the middle of Ishti. After the Ishti, the processing of Padam is done which is followed by Somakrayam (purchase of the Somalatha or Soma plant & paying off Kodhsan in the barter system). Padam is the soil (and its collection) which has been stepped on by the calf used for purchasing Soma. Aathithhyeshti (an important Ishti). Aathithhyeshti ceremoniously welcomes Soman as Athithhi or guest, although Vishnu is the spirit of this Ishti. (Vishnu is the consumer, Soman, the consumed; hence the relation). Purodaasam, made of rice, is the Havissu for this Ishti. Midway, fire is made through abrasion and deposited in the Aahavaneeyaagni. During Aathithhyeshti, the Soma is brought to the Saala in an ox cart, placed on an Aasandi (pedestal, Peettham) and received with the Arghya items. After this ishti, all the Rithwiks, except Saamavedis, together take a pledge of Camaraderie, touching Thaanoonasthram, the ghee from this Ishti. It follows Somaapyaayanam (consecration of Soma, a long process done by each rithwik), Nihnavanams and then the Avaanthara Deeksha. Avaanthara Deeksha ritual is then performed for exchanging the Yajamaanan’s body with Agni’s. He thus conceals his identity and prevents the gods from troubling him.
9.30 AM – 12 noon: First Pravargyam & Upasath: Pravargyam is considered as the Yajamaanan’s head and Upasath, his neck. The story goes that once, the Yajamaanan’s head was cut off accidently at his neck during his Yaagam, but was rectified through the powers of Aswineedevans (gods). The rituals connected with Pravargyam are these rectification processes, and hence considered brutal. So the wife of the Yajamaanan, as well as other ladies are banned from being present in the Agnihothrasaala, during these rituals, and the doors are kept closed. The rituals are performed only during day-time. All rituals for Pravargyam are preceded and followed by Saanthijapam (chanting for peace and tranquility) It is followed by Upaasath, an Ishti (ritual) in which Agni, Soman and Vishnu are the gods with Aajyam (Ghee with manthrams chanted) as Havissu (offering). Its objective is to cleanse the area with fire and has to be done in a hurry. It follows Subrahmaniaahuaanam, a samaveda manthram for inviting the God Indra (the God of rain) for the Athiraathram. All the remaining eleven Pravargyams, Upasaths and Subrahmaniaahuaanams will be performed in the same manner on the respective days.
12 noon – 4 PM: Building the first layer of the Chithi. Building each layer is a long process comprising several rituals and manthrams.
4 PM – 6.30 PM: Second Pravargyam, Upasath and Subrahmaniaahuaanam. Vrathadoham & Vrathapaanam are done at night
6 AM – 10 AM: After Vrathadoham, the third Pravargyam, Upasath and Subrahmaniaahuaanam. Building the second layer of Chithi
3.30 PM – 5.30 PM: Fourth Pravargyam, Upasath and Subrahmaniaahuaanam. Vrathadoham & Vrathapaanam are done at night
6 AM – 10 AM: After Vrathadoham, the fifth Pravargyam, Upasath and Subrahmaniaahuaanam. Building the third layer of Chithi
3.30 PM – 5.30 PM: Sixth Pravargyam, Upasath and Subrahmaniaahuaanam. Vrathadoham & Vrathapaanam are done at night
6 AM – 10 AM: After Vrathadoham, the seventh Pravargyam, Upasath and Subrahmaniaahuaanam. Building the fourth layer of Chithi
3.30 PM – 5.30 PM: Eigth Pravargyams, Upasath and Subrahmaniaahuaanam. Vrathadoham & Vrathapaanam are done at night
6 AM – 8.30 AM: After Vrathadoham, the ninth Pravargyam, Upasath and Subrahmaniaahuaanam.
8.30 PM – 2 PM: Building the fifth layer of Chithi. It is believed that the altar thus constructed has a divine but uncomfortable or inhospitable energy which the yajamaana should suppress by performing a small ritual here. It follows Ksheeradhaara (milking the chithi, Sreerurudram is also chanted here), Mandookamarjanam (a small, manthram based, ritual supposedly to remove Aattuvanji, frog, green grass etc. around ), Sarpaahuthy ( a series of 6 homams for snake). Now it is believed that the Chithi is calm. It follows Udgaathan’s Somopasthaanam, which is followed by Adwaryu’s and Yajamaanan’s Somopasthaanam supported by Hothan’s three manthrams, Chithi dakshina (alms to all those who take part in altar construction) and Vrathapaanam (consuming the remains of the homam).
4 PM – 6 PM: Tenth Pravargyam, Upasath and Subrahmaniaahuaanam. Vrathadoham & Vrathapaanam are done at night
5.30 AM – 8.30 AM: After Vrathadoham, the eleventh Pravargyam & Upaasath. It follows Gandharvaahuthi (a series of six homams), Chithi Proshanam ( by Prathiprasthaathan), Apakaachhaadanam (the process of covering the Chithi with Apaka – Kothachandi – and handing over its control to the Rakshaapurushan, the controller), Vrathpaanam.
9 AM to 12 noon PM: Twelth Pravargyam, Upasath and Subrahmaniaahuaanam.
12 noon to 3 PM: Homam for Gharmodwaasana. This is followed by transportation of all the items in a traditional manner to the Dasapadam (east of the Mahaavedi), and arrangement in the form of a male human figure, known as Yajnapurushan. Items are arranged as organs of Yajnapurushan. It follows the rituals namely Agnipranayanam, Vasordhaara, Bramhoudanam and Sarvoushadha homam.
On a raised platform with thatched roof, located west of Dasapadam, called Havirdhaanam, two twin-wheeled carts, called Chaatu or Sakatam, are brought and parked. This process is termed Havirdhaana-Pravarthanam and is performed here. It follows Oudumbaree.
Three Upasaalaas (sub-areas) are now to be formally made, though they would have already been constructed. One of them is located near the eastern side of the west (Agnihothra) Saala, and is called Sadass. The other two are smaller and are located in the middle of the southern and northern boundaries of the Mahaavedi, and are called Maarjaaleeyam and Aagneedhriyam, respectively.
Between the two wheels and front of the southern cart, four small pits are dug – Uparavams – in which certain rituals are performed to purify the area by destroying the Valagam (poison) supposed to have been placed there by Asurans (demons) for removing Somarasam. The pits are covered with two wooden planks placed between four stakes (one “Chaan” high; “Chaan” = distance between tips of middle finger and thumb, stretched in opposite directions). Somaabhishavam (grinding and squeezing the juice) is to be done on an ox hide spread on the planks and raised along the edges over the stakes in a bowl-like fashion. Eight Dhishnyams – low, circular earthen platforms of two Chaanns diameter and one Viral (finger) high – are made, one each in Maarjaaleeyam and Aagneedhriyam and six in Sadass. Then Darbha Pullu (Darbha grass) is spread over the entire floor of the Mahaavedi. The Yajamaanan then goes near the Somaabhishavam location and changes to his own self from another form he had taken through Avaanthara Deeksha. Now the Ishti of Agneeshomeeyam Pasu (an important Ishti) is initiated and then Agneeshoma Pranayanam is performed, in which Agni and Soman are taken from the west Saala and placed in Agneedhriyam and on the southern cart respectively. When the Yajamaanan observed Deeksha, his soul (Aatmaavu) came under the control of Agni and Soman. He now regains his soul by offering Agneeshomeeyam Pasu, a double-coloured (any two of black, white and red / brown) lamb.
This follows the spreading of darbha grass on the Chithi and Vrathapaanam.
3.30 PM – 5.30 PM: Next is Paswaalambhanam and Pasu Ishti (Click here to know more about Paswaalambhanam). It involves Homam (offering to Agni) of certain parts of a sacrificial animal, usually lamb. The three items for Homam are : (1) Vapa which represents the fibrous fatty part of the animal spread over the entire body; (2) Purodaasam, a special preparation with rice powder, purportedly representing the essence (Saaraamsam) of the animal; and (3) Haviss, representing the organs like heart, tongue (Jihwa), etc. Some Homams with Hothan & Maithaavarunan’s Manthrams. Rituals like Samjnjapanam, Nimitha Praayaschithams are also to be done before this. It follows Vapa Homam (offering of Vapa to the fire) and Vapaa-Saamam.
During the above homam, other rituals like Agnishoma pranayanam, consecration of Soma on the chaadu (cart), and Mushti Vidal. Fixing the Yoopam is also to be done now. (The tree used as Yoopam may be Palaasam (Plaasu – Butea monosperma – flame of the forest), Bilwam (Koovalam – Aegle marmelops – wood apple) or Khadiram (Karinjaali). The Yoopam is fixed at the middle of the eastern boundary of the Mahaavedi.
5.30 PM to 10.30 PM: A pot (Kutam) of clear and clean water is collected from a water source. This is called Vasatheevari. It follows Saamasthuthi. Pasu Purodaasam (offering item) has to be prepared now, with all organs of the sacrificed animal. And, it is offered (homam). In between, the rituals by name “Raajathwa Prakhyaapanam”, Vishnukramanam, Mahaapraisham, Panchadoham of Prathiprasthhaathan. Also, a Praisham (instruction) given by Adhwaryu on the next day’s rituals.
2 AM – 6 AM: Commencement of Pasu Ishti. This stage of a Yaagam is Suthyam. All the rituals and arrangements done so far only prepare the Yajamaanan and others to perform Suthyam, which is the most important aspect of Yaagams. They are now qualified for it. Suthyam involves, among many other things, Somaahuthy and Sthuthi Sasthrams. Suthyam is almost equally divided into three savanams (stages), Praatha Savanam, Maadhyandina Savanam and Thritheeya Savanam.
The day starts with specially consecrating some rithwiks. After the Soma is taken out of the cart, the important “Praatharana Uvaakam” is performed (Agneedhran & Hothan). The purodaasam (offering material) for Savaneeyam (a forthcoming ritual) is done here. Before 6 AM, Ekadhana-Grahanam (formally collecting water in at least three containers) is also performed, followed by Somaanjnjanam, Dadhigraham, temporary Somaabhishavam, first Somaahuthi (Upaamsuhomam), Havishavam, and Bathing are to be over.
Formal Abhishavam is to be done separately for each Savanam. The first two Somaahuthys on the Suthyam day, using the containers called Upaamsu and Antharyaamam, are the most important ones. They are to be done just before and after sunrise, respectively, supported by the very important Shodasi sasthram of Hothan. The first Somaahuthi, called Upaamsuhomam, is done by Adhwaryu and poured into the Upaamsu, and the Yajamaanan performs Somaahuthi with it. The second, Antharyaamahomam.
6.30 – 11 AM: Preparation of Soma juice for the second Somaahuthi. Just to the west of and attached to the southern cart (Chaatu) a cloth piece (Dasaapavithram) is kept stretched for straining Soma into the vessel (Dronakalasam) kept underneath on the Uparavappalaka. On the north cart will be kept two containers (Mitaavu), called Aadhavaneeyam and Poothabhruth, with the ground Soma juice stored in the former and covered by a cloth. The Soma juice is taken from the vessel with an earthen pot (Kindi) and poured over Dasaapavithram and the strained juice drops down as a stream – Dhaara – into the Dronakalasam. It is from this Dhaara that Soma is collected as and when needed, using wooden Oordhwa-Paathrams. Eleven of these are required for most ordinary Yaagams. Nine are made of Peraal (banyan – Ficus bengalensis) and are named: Upaamsu, Antharyaamam, Aindravaayavam, Maithraavarunam, Aswinam, two Rithu Paathrams, Aadithyopasayam, and Ukthhyaapasayam. (For Athiraathram, 3 more pots, called Athigraahyas, are also needed). Sukrapaathram is made of Koovalam (Bilwam – Aegle marmelops – wood apple) while Manthipaathram, of Vayyankatha (Gymnosporia montana – Family: Celastracea).
Praathassavanam: After prasarpanam, all Rithwiks shall occupy their respective seats, a process known as “Kutipukkirikkuka”. At this stage, six rithwiks move abreast to the “Eesaanakon”, a prefixed position according to Vaasthu of the Yagasaala. Then they sing Bahish – Pavamaana Sthuthi for cleansing the mind, and other Sthuthis and Sasthrams, before the Savanam rituals. It is believed that Aswinidevathas hear this Stuthi. (Click here to know more about Bahish-Pavamaana-Sthuthi).
After Sthuthi, Soma is caught (Grahanam) in the Aaswina-Paathram. After this, a general and specific Upasthaanam (Somopasthaanam) is done with the Soma juice kept in the different vessels. Embers from Agneedhriyam Dhishnyam are taken and placed in the other seven Dhishnyams and Homams are performed. This is called Dhishnya Vyaaghaaranam.
The next ritual is Aagneyam Pasu (also called Savaneeya Pasu), spreading into the three Savanams : Vapa Homam in the morning Savanam, Srapanam (boiling/cooking) in the mid-day Savanam, and Havish Prachaaram (or Hridayaadyanga Homam) in the third Savanam.
11 AM to 6 PM: Savaneeya Purodaasaadi Homam, Dwidevathya Prachaaram (an important Homam) & Idaahwaana Bhakshanam: They are explained below.
Savaneeyam involves five havissus: Purodaasam, Dhaanakal (pounded and fried Yavam), Karambham (pounded, fried and powdered Yavam mixed in ghee), Parivaapam (Malar or popped rice), and Aamiksha. These would have been prepared by Agneedhran during Mahaaraathram (explained earlier) itself while the other Kriyas were going on. Dwidevathya Prachaaram is the Homams of Soma collected in Aindravaayavam, Maithraavarunam and Aaswinam. Then, Hothan and Adhwaryu consume (Bhakshikkal – here, only wetting of lips, or smelling) the Hutha Sishtam (remains of offers in rituals) of Dwidevathya Grahams, followed by Idaahwaanam.
Prasthhitha in which Adhwaryu and Prathiprasthhaathan perform Homams using Sukra Paathram and Manthhi Paathram, and joined by all Rithwiks doing Homams of Soma juice with their Chamasams (special vessels). This is followed by separate Homams by Maithraavarunan, etc., using their own Chamasams. Thus ends Prasthhitha.
Next is the special Vapa homam of “Vashat Karthaakkal”. Consume (Bhakshanam – here, only wetting of lips, or smelling) of Savaneeya Hutam Sishtam Havissu, and then Vaajina (whey) Homam and Bhakshanam, and where Aamiksha exists, its Homam and Bhakshanam. Idaahwaanam is a ritual in which Purodaasam is collected in a pot, called Ida, by Hothan followed by Manthrams to address (Aahwaanam) other Rithwiks. Then, Savana Mukha Bhakshanam (eating the remains of Soma used for Savanam, explained above) for all Rithwiks who are eligible to have Chamasams.
Achhaavaakeeyam comes next. This is the formal and conditional welcoming back of Achhaavaakan who was not in the scene for long. The condition involves his having to recite one Sooktham, which he does. Then Soma is poured in his Chamasam, he does Homam with it, Bhakshanam and Kutippukkirikkal.
Pannejani is prepared here. If the wife gets excited while listening to the forthcoming melodious Sthuthi, she should cleanse her body with the Panne Jani
There is now a very brief resting time for the busy Adhwaryu, while the Yajamaanan and wife eat lunch. Rithwiks too eat lunch. This is followed by Rithu Yaagam. In this, the gods are the twelve seasons (Rithus in a year, explained in Panchaangam). Adhwaryu and Prathiprasthhaathan collect Soma from Dronakalasam and take turns to perform twelve Homams. Hothan and six other Rithwiks recite the Aajya Sasthram. A set of two Homams is considered as a two-month Rithu (season). As in the case of Dwidevathyam, consumption of Hutha Sesham from the Rithupaathram (pot) in Rithu Yaagam is also only by wetting the lips or smelling (Ghraana Bhakshanam).
Hothan’s first and second Sasthrams, Saamasthuthi, Maithraavarunan’s Sasthram, Braamanaachamsi’s Sasthram, and Achaavaakan’s Sasthram (the last two, in the presence of Prathiprasthaathan, in the seat of Adhwaryu). Each of the last three is preceded by Soma collection and Sthuthi recitation. (Explanation: The last part of the Praathassavanam is the recitation of five Sasthrams. The first is Aajya Sasthram, with Indraagni as Devatha (god). Facing the Rithwik reciting Sasthram, will be seated Prasthiprasthhathan serving as Prathigaram (motivator / applauder). After Sasthram, Soma Homam is performed and the Hutha Sesham is consumed. Then after a Sthuthi with Udgaathan in the lead and supported by four other Rithwiks, it is now the Hothan’s turn for the second Sasthram called Pra-Ugam, in which seven different Viswadevakal form the Devathas, and each Thricham (three Riks) is preceded by recitation of Puroruk Rik. After the Sasthram, Homam and Bhakshanam, there are three more Sasthrams by Maithraavarunan, Braahmanaachhamsi and Achhaavaakan, Praathassavanam is now over.)
6 PM – 12 midnight:
Maadhyandina Savanam: As a prelude of Maadhyandina Savanam, after a general Upasthhaanam and a special one for Aadithyan, and after Kutippukkirikkal, Adhwaryu goes to Havirdhaanam and performs Soma Abhishekam (offering), along with Graavastothan’s Sthuthi. Seven Rithwiks, as before with hands on others’ shoulders, perform Savanaahuthi and again takes their respective places.It follows Bahish Pavamaana Sthuthi. The rituals are almost the same as in the previous Savanam except for a Dadhigharmam. After Sthuthi, Soma is caught (Grahanam) in the Aaswina-Paathram. After this, a general and specific Upasthaanam (Somopasthaanam) is done with the Soma juice kept in the different vessels. Embers from Agneedhriyam Dhishnyam are taken and placed in the other seven Dhishnyams and Homams are performed. This is called Dhishnya Vyaaghaaranam.
Dadhigharmam, which is the collection of Dadhi (curd) in an Otam (a small open vessel, like a bowl), its processing (Srayanam), Homam and Bhakshanam (consuming its remains), all of which are accompanied by chanting of Manthrams.
From 12 midnight onwards: Savaneeyam (homam of this savanam) with Pasu Purodaasam & Prasthitha. (This is spectacular). Idaahwaana Bhakshanam, Savanamukha Bhakshanam & Vratham of Yajamaanan & Pathni.
Now it is the Daakshinaayani which is a Karmam to give Dakshina to the Rithwiks (112 cows), to those in attendance and even to the casual visitors. In practice, real cows are not given, but are represented by Puthupanam – a small ancient coin – even which is only pretended to be given. It follows Agrapooja. and and Bhakshanam (consuming its remains). This is Dakshina ( holy payment ) to Rithwiks.
Pancha Vaiswakarmana Homam, as a Praayaschitham to counter the inability to satisfy everyone’s expectations, follows this. It is time for the Hothan’s third Sasthram (Maruthwatheeya Sasthram), Bhakshanam (consuming its remains), and Abhishekam. Abhishekam is the ritual (after a series of six homams) performed by Adhwaryu before formally christening the yajamaanan as “Akkithiri”. The yajamaanan is “Akkithiripad” now.
Maahendra Graham, Bhakshanam (consuming its remains), Saama Sthuthi (Bruhal Saamasthuthi), Hothan’s fourth Sasthram ( Nishkevalya Sasthram), Athigraahya Homam (a series of 3 homams by Prathiprasthaathan, Neshtan & Unnethan), the Sasthrams of Maithraavarunan, Bramhanaachhamsi and Achchaavaakan. Thus ends the Maadhyandina Savanam, roughly at 6 PM. Without break, the Thritheeya savanam commences.
Thritheeya Savanam: After prasarpanam, all Rithwiks shall occupy their respective seats, a process known as “Kutipukkirikkuka”. At this stage, six rithwiks move abreast to the “Eesaanakon”, a prefixed position according to Vaasthu of the Yagasaala. Then they sing Aamala – Pavamaana Sthuthi for cleansing the mind, and other Sthuthis and Sasthrams, before Savana Karmams. It is believed that Aswinidevathas hear this Stuthi. After Sthuthi, Soma is caught (Grahanam) in the Aaswina-Paathram. After this, a general and specific Upasthaanam (Somopasthaanam) is done with the Soma juice kept in the different vessels. Embers from Agneedhriyam Dhishnyam are taken and placed in the other seven Dhishnyams and Homams are performed. This is called Dhishnya Vyaaghaaranam.
Ekaadasa pasu havissu homam Idaahwaana Bhakshanam, Savaneeya prachaaram, Savanamukha Bhakshanam & Vratham of Yajamaanan & Pathni, which is followed by Prasthitha. Soma homam, and Chamasa homam of each rithwik. Savithru graham, an important one, is performed here, followed by Hothan’s fifth Sasthram (Vaiswadeva sasthram) and the respective homam, which ends with Bhakshanam (consuming its remains).
Now, there is a Karmam called Sowmyam, using the Charu (a product made of rice) made by Prathiprasthhaathan, after which ghee is poured into the Charu and the Thaithareeyas as well as the Saamavedis in the Sadass look for and 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 excellent children to be born to them! It is also believed that consuming the remains of homam, even causes consumption of babies!
Next is Paathneevatham (Paathneevatha Griham), in which Adhwaryu performs Homam with Soma mixed with ghee supplied by Prathiprasthhaathan; Agneedhran recites Yaajya Manthram and consumes the Homa Sesham while seated on Neshtan’s lap. The wife (Pathni) is led and seated in the Sadass before the Sthuthi (by name Yajnaayajnayam) commences. If the wife gets excited while listening to the melodious Sthuthi, she should cleanse her body with the Panne Jani. Neshtan leads the Pathni to bring to the Sadassu the water – Panne Jani – meant for her Soucham (body cleansing).
It follows Hothan’s sixth (Agnimaarutha) Sasthram and the respective homam, which ends with Bhakshanam (consuming its remains). It follows Saamasthuthi, the Sasthrams of Maithraavarunan, Bramhanaachhamsi and Achchaavaakan. The Savanam ends with the Homam of all the Chamasams and the consumption of Homa Sishtam. It follows Yoopam-Upasthaanam, This would be at around 6 AM of day-12.
7 PM – 8 PM: Saama sthuthis and Hothan’s Shodashi Sasthram.
10 PM – 12 midnight (or sometimes 2 AM next day): Twelve night Sasthrams (Paryaaya Sasthrams), three each by Hothan, Maithraavarunan, Achhaavaakan and Graavasthothan, which are followed by Saama sthuthis. During earlier days, due to perfection in timing, this part would come just during the previous mid night, and thus it is called Night Sasthram.
2.30 AM to 8.30 AM: Hothan’s Aaswina Sasthram (consisting of 1000 riks) and Saama sthuthis.
8.30 AM onwards: Anuyaajam. Then the Haariyojanam (formally closing off the soma rituals).
It is to be noted that, totally there are 29 sasthrams in Athirathram. They are as given in the following table.
|Area of Suthyam||Chanting Rithwik||Count of sasthrams|
|Praathassavanam||Hothan’s 1st & 2nd||2|
|Maadhymdinassavanam||Hothan’s 3rd & 4th||2|
|Thritheeya savanam||Hothan’s 5th & 6th||2|
Yajamaanan performs Pindam (homam) at Maarjaaleeyam. All rithwiks performs homam at Agneendriyam (Palacharani Praayaschitham). The performances like “Dhaana Iduka”, Adhwaryu’s Sruvaahuthi (Saakala homam), Chamasa Visargam (detatching the rithwiks from the respective chamasam), Sakhya-Visargam (releasing the bond of Camaraderie among the Rithwiks, undertaken earlier with Thaanoonasthram), “Pathnee Samyojam”,
Performance of Praayaschitham (here, Kalpa-Praayaschitham), in order to overcome any imperfections in the performance.
Then it is Avabhrutham Ishti (starting in the Saala and ending in the pond, lake or river), in which most of the used items are deposited in a water body (pond, lake or river), everyone bathes (Avabhrutham Snaanam) and returns to the Saala. It follows Upasthaanam.
After returning from the pond, the three Ishti (homams) namely Udayananiyeshti, Maithraavaruneshti, and Sakthu homam are performed. Udayaneeyeshti, followed by Prathiprasthaathan’s Ishti and finally the Maithraavaruneeyeshti (a long ritual of 2½ hours with 4 Charus and a Purodaasam, as five havissu or offering to five Gods namely Anumathi, Ila, Sineevaali, Kuhu, Dhathaa).
Powdered rice is then used for Sakthu Homam. They follow Agnervimoka homam, Aapthyu Upasthaanam, termination of Agneendriyam, 5-chamatha Homam, Upasthaanam to Aadithyan, Dadidrafsam Bhakshanam, & Namaskaaram. Thus ends Suthyam.
Thereafter, the Threthaagnis (the three spiritual fires attained through Yaagam) are shown (Kaachi) at and invoked back to the Arani. Once the Threthaagni is invoked back to Arani, the remaining fire in the Yaagasala has conceptually become forest fire with no spiritual content. Also, the Yaagasala has lost its divine nature. The Yaagasaala is set fire to with this fire.
Back Home: On the way (Prathyaagamanam), either Ubhavaneeya Ishti or Poornaahuthi is performed and this Threthaagni is taken to the Yajamaanan’s residence (Illam) and placed in an appropriate location like Vadukkini or Padinjaatti (two rooms in a Namboothiri Illam). The Athiraathram is now over and the Yajamaanan now becomes a Akkithiri while his wife remains as Paththanaadi.
Agnihothram Rituals: It is using this Threthaagni that the Somayaaji and Paththanaadi perform the rituals, viz., Agnihothram, twice daily, and Darsesthi and Poornamaaseeyesthi on every Prathipadam (first day after full moon or new moon), through out their life. Darsesthi and Poornamaaseeyesthi (about two hours long) require, apart from Yajamaanan, four Rithwiks, namely, Adhwaryu, Brahman, Agneedharan and Hothan, who can be members of Yajamaanan’s family, unless they have Pula. Though Pula (defilement) (Click here to know more about Pula) forces the Yajamaanan to stop the Yaagam; it does not affect the Agnihothram rituals, which are continued to be performed.
Life of Threthaagni: Whoever dies first – the Akkithiri or Pathanaadi – is cremated using this fire, preceded and followed by special cremation rituals, much different from the usual cremation procedure of Namboothiris. The Threthaagni then ceases to exist, and the survivor discontinues Agnihothram and the Ishtis. The Akkithiri is eligible to revive Threthaagni only if any one Pathanaadi is alive and both are ready to repeat Aadhanam (called Punaraadhaanam). (It may be noted that they must have done Adhaanam prior to performing any Yaagam). Here, Somayaagam or Athiraathram need not be repeated (just a performance of Aadhaanam will do) to revive Threthaagni. In case of his wife’s death, if the Yajamaanan did not revive Threthaagni, he is cremated in the usual Namboothiri manner.
Note-1: At the end of every Yaagam, it usually rains. Presence of kites (Parunthu) above the Yaagasaala is also a common sight. No Yaagam-related document indicates such phenomena.
Note-2: The timings above may not be exact.