Friday, October 13, 2017



Vedic Rites to be performed during the Kashi Yatra
The purpose of a Kashi Yatra for most people is the performance of Vedic rites for their
ancestors, and it was the same for us. My in-laws were performing all the rites, and we had
nothing much to do. In fact, we weren’t allowed to accompany them to Gaya at all, as it is
apparently considered inauspicious for those whose parents were alive to see the Akshaya
Vatam and the Vishnu Padam. However, my curiosity about the rituals made me ask a
number of questions which were thankfully answered in detail by two young people- the
manager of the Kanchi Math at Kashi and the vadhyar or pundit who officiated at our rites.
Both of them were extremely helpful, and it is entirely thanks to them that I have been able
to write in such detail about Kashi as well as the surrounding places, even those we did not
visit. At my request, I was given this list of the rites that are traditionally performed during
a Kashi Yatra. I share this with all my readers in the hope that it may be of some use to
them too. I have provided contact numbers of some people there who will be able to
arrange everything for anyone who desires to perform these rituals.
The Vedic rituals are begun at Allahabad. The rituals (even the more extensive ones) take
about half a day (early morning to lunch), so those who wish can take in some sigh seeing
at Allahabad before moving on to Kashi.
Allahabad (Triveni Sangam) (Day 1)
Anugnai (Sankalpam)
Vighneshwara Puja (Prayers to Ganesha)
Prayschitta Sankalpam (atonement for sins committed, knowingly or unknowingly)
Veni Daanam (Women offer a part of their hair to the river praying for the long life of their
husbands. The husband plaits the wife’s hair, decorates it with flowers and cuts off the tip of
the plait and offers it to the river. It is an interesting fact that while hair normally floats on
water, at the Sangam; it immediately sinks to the river bed. Though almost all married
women offer their hair here, there is not a single strand found floating on the river!!!!)
Triveni Sangam Snanam (husband and wife bathe together at the confluence of the 3 rivers,
holding hands. One has to go to the confluence in a boat. A sort of platform has been
erected at the point for the convenience of pilgrims)
Hiranya Shrardham *
Pinda Pradaanam, Kshetra Pindam, Tarpanam **
The rituals at Kashi take place over two days – the first day for the Manikarnika Shrardham
and the second day for the Pancha Teertha Shrardham. Then, one goes to Gaya and
performs the rituals there, and returns to Kashi for the Ganga Puja, Dampati Puja and only
then visits the temples at Kashi.
Kashi (Varanasi)
Day 2
Anugnai (Sankalpam)
Vighneshwara Puja (Prayers to Ganesha
Poorvanga Godaanam ***
Poorvanga Dasa Daanam ***
Naandhi Shrardham *
Vaishnava Shrardham *
Punyaa Vajanam (purification ritual)
Maha Sankalpam
Prayschitta Sankalpam (atonement for sins committed, knowingly or unknowingly)
Pala Daanam ***
Uttaranga Godaanam ***
Manikarnika Teertha Shrardham (Anna roopam / Hiranya roopam)
Day 3
Pancha Teertha Yatra (One has to go in a boat to these 5 Ghats and perform the rituals)
i) Asi Ghat (Haridwar Teertham) – this is where the Asi river merges with the Ganga.
Performing the rites here is believed to give one the fruits of performing the rites at
ii) Dashashwamedha Ghat (Rudra Sarovara Teertham) – this is the place where Brahma
performed 10 Ashwamedha Yagnas, and hence it is considered sacred to perform the rites.
iii) Trilochana Ghat ( Vishnu Paada Udaka Teertham)
iv) Pancha Ganga Ghat ( Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Kirana, Doodhapappa- Sangam);
Bindu Madhava Temple
v) Manikarnika Ghat (Manikarnika Teertham, Chakra Pushkarni Teertham)
Day 5
Ganga Puja (it is a tradition to bring back small sealed containers of water from the Ganges
and distribute it among our near and dear ones. One container is kept at home as it is
considered sacred and one is taken to Rameswaram where it is used to perform Abhishekam
to the lingam. All these containers are kept and prayed to before they are distributed.)
Dampati Puja (Prayers offered to an elderly married couple, invoking them as Vishwanath
and Annapurna)
Uttaranga Dasa Daanam ***
Kala Bhairava Samaradhana (invocation and prayers to Kala Bhairav)
It is advisable to make a day trip to Gaya from Varanasi. The journey takes about 3 hours,
and the roads are extremely good. The general practice is to take a car to Gaya on the
evening of the Pancha Teertha Shrardham at Kashi and stay overnight at the Mutt at Gaya.
The rituals at Gaya are completed by lunchtime, and one can return to Kashi by evening.
Gaya Shrardham (Day 4)
Palguni (Falguni) Teertha Hiranya Shrardham (this is the traditional Shrardham performed
on the banks of any sacred river, here the Falguni.)
Vishnu Paada Hiranya Shrardham †
Akshaya Vata Anna/Hiranya Shrardham †
Akshaya Vata Pinda Pradaanam ** †
Ask Gaya Brahmans if they are satisfied (according to legend, the Brahmins at Gaya are not
easily satisfied and it is a tradition to ask them anyway in an attempt to satisfy them)
Acharya sambhavana (payment of the fees to the pundit)
* Shrardham or performing the Vedic rites to appease one’s forefathers is of two types-
Anna roopam and Hiranya roopam. Anna Shrardham is where a certain number of Brahmins
are invited, and are fed at the completion of the rituals. This is considered equivalent to
feeding one’s ancestors. However, this is quite tedious, and sometimes expensive. Hence
the second option, Hiranya Shrardham, where the Brahmins are fed only symbolically. This
is a quicker and cheaper alternative to the same rituals. At places like Kashi the pundits
offer us the option of choosing which kind of ritual we would like to perform, depending on
our time and budget.
Naandhi and Vaishnava Shrardham refer to the rites for appeasement of one’s ancestors
and the Gods, respectively.
** Pinda pradaanam is the ritual of offering food to three (in case of Gaya, more than that)
generations of our ancestors. Balls of cooked rice and Til (sesame seeds), which are thus
offered are called the pindams.
*** Daanam - Strictly meaning Charity, Daanam refers to the procedure of donating things
to the Brahmins in the name of our ancestors. There is a long list of things that need to be
given, starting from simple things like umbrellas, fans, and mats to more expensive things
made of silver and gold. Among the more auspicious ones is the donation of a cow
(Godaanam) and land, both of which are usually done in symbolic terms. Poorvanga and
Uttaranga Daanam refer to the things needed to be given at the beginning and end of the
rituals respectively, while Dasa Daanam refers to a set of 10 things that need to be
† The Akshaya Vata and the Vishnu Pada are the only two places where one can perform
the Vedic rites not only for our forefathers, but for anyone, family, friends, acquaintances,
whatever caste, religion or community they may belong to… and also for animals, our pets,
abandoned bodies, etc.. This is the uniqueness of Gaya which draws thousands of people
from all parts of India---



For a Vaishnavite the pilgrimage is considered complete with the Sraaddha and related Pitru karyams at Gaya, and it is not mandatory to cover Kasi and Prayaag. For a Smaartha however, a tour to Gaya for performing „Gaya sraaddha‟ is not complete without covering Prayaag (also known as Triveni Sangam) in Allahabad and Varanasi (also called Kasi). As a rule an Iyer therefore undertakes a package tour of all the 3 places.
Sri sarma sastrigal
Sri Sarma Sastrigal
Gaya Sraaddha
Accordingly my program – we being Smaarthas – was modelled on the following lines: Reach Varanasi at 8 am travelling by Ganga Kaveri Express from Chennai Day 1: Visit temples, tour Varanasi and participate in the Ganga Harati at night Day 2: Leave for Prayaag by Road, about 125 km. away, early morning and return to Va-ranasi the same night Day 3: Perform Ganga snana (bathe in the river Ganga) under the Mahasankalpa, do Tirtha Sraaddha etc., at Kasi, leave for Gaya (240 km. away) in the evening by Road and reach in about 7 hrs Day 4: Perform Gaya sraaddha, starting at 7 am and concluding by 5 30 pm, get back to Varanasi by midnight Day 5: Perform Pancha Ganga ghat sraaddha and Dampati puja (worship by a couple), and fly back to Chennai after lunch and reach the same evening
Pilgrims to Gaya can avail themselves of the services of purohits and guides who will help them perform pitru karma as specified. All that is required of the Karta is sincere and steadfast focus on doing the karma. You can in fact experience the awesome power of our pitrus when you under-take a Gaya trip – they make sure that you conduct the entire pilgrimage with comfort and with-out any hitch. The active participation of the karta‟s wife is absolutely essential for the success of a Gaya sraaddha. Generally for proper fulfilment of any vaidika karma the lady of the house has to be totally involved, but this is even more crucial for Gaya pilgrimage. It just won‟t do if the karta decides to undertake the tour – the wife‟s willing cooperation is a must. The benefits to the lady from actively enjoining the efforts of her husband in a Gaya sraaddha are immense: it has far-reaching favourable impact on her health and the well-being of her family. The position allot-ted to women in our Sastras is truly exalted.
Another sine qua non for a satisfactory Gaya sraaddha is total and unquestioning trust that our pitrus exist, albeit in a different form, that we can communicate with them and seek their blessings, and that they are in some respects Godlike and can give us the boons we ask for. Gaya sraad-dha is not to be done out of fear that pitrus will otherwise curse us – no! We have to learn to view them as our friends and facilitators for leading the Brahmin‟s life as ordained, to the extent feasible in today‟s world. We should know and believe that the pitrus will sense our visit to Gaya even as we are packing our bags and will be ready to receive and accept our karmas. The con-tentment of pitrus from our deeds results in an impressive basket of goodies for us – health for the karta and his family, progeny, knowledge and wisdom, and wealth and prosperity.
If my writing of this booklet gives a fresh impetus to persons who are thinking of a trip to Gaya and makes them act on it with anticipation and joy, I shall consider it a job well done.
I pray Almighty to bestow health, happiness and prosperity on everyone.
Sarma Sastrigal []
The very mention of Gaya invokes in us a sense of devotion suffused with pride and excitement. It is every son‟s duty to go to Gaya after the demise of his parents and con-duct Gaya sraaddha. Apart from delighting the pitrus his act bestows eminence on his family as well.
“Jeevator vaakya karanaat,
Pratyaabdam Bhuri bhojanaat,
Gayayaam pinda daanaat,
tribhi: putrasya putrata”
say the Sastras. “When the parents are alive, obey their commands. When they die, perform their annual sraaddha properly. And go to Gaya and offer pindas for them. You can be called a son to your parents only when you do all these three things.” Gaya is in the state of Bihar. It is located on the Kolahaala Mountain in a beautiful place called Champaka. God is ensconced here as Gadaadhara. How many sraaddhas do you have to do at Gaya? As per the sastras you will require at least six days to com-plete all the sraaddhas required of you. But over the years mandatory observances have been reduced to two Hiranya sraaddhas and one Paarvana sraaddha. This is the least one has to do at Gaya.
The modus operandi for this „minimum‟ observance is described below.
1. At Phalguni River: You should go to the Phalguni River and bring the water, and on the banks of the river itself your lady will make the havis, with help from the locals. She will then take out one part of the broth and make 17 pindam-s from it. You will do pinda pradaana of the 17 pindams with sankalpa mantras right there on the banks, and after doing „yataasthana‟ you will give the pindas to the cows there.
2. At Vishnu Paada: This is where you go next, to do pinda pradaana. You may recall that when we do sraaddha at home we chant “Vishnu paadaadi samasta paadeshu dat-tam” at the time of Brahmana bhojana. You literally do this now. You take the remain-der of the havis cooked at Phalguni River and make 64 pindas, and do pinda paradaana with sankalpa mantras. And you have the great fortune of reaching these 64 pindas directly to Vishnu paada (the feet of Mahavishnu), instead of imagining it. The satisfaction you get when you do this is indescribable.
3. Paarvana sraaddha: You may undertake the next part of your observance, the Paarvana sraaddha, in the place in which you are staying. We stayed at Karnataka Bhavan, which offers the facility. You should do a sraaddha with homa, with five Brah-mins present. At the end of the sraaddha again you have to make 64 pindas out of the havis cooked here, and take them to Akshaya Vata.
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Gaya Sraaddha
“you have the great fortune of reaching these 64 pindas directly to Vishnu Paada (the feet of Mahavishnu) instead of imagining it.. The satisfaction you get when you do this is indescribable…”
Vishnu Padam
4. Akshaya Vata: You may recollect that in the course of our annual sraad-dha we say „Akshaya Vata‟ when doing the namaskara (obeisance) at the end of Brahmana bhojana. This is the place to which you now take the pindas made out of the paarvana sraaddha havis. Akshaya Vata is a huge peepul tree and you offer the pindas in the shade of this tree. A speciality of the pinda pradaana here is that 16 of the 64 pindas you offer are for the mother and are referred to as „maatru shodasi’. You can sense an exhilarat-ing, almost supernatural vibration as you enter Akshaya Vata. Another fea-ture of Akshaya Vata is that you can offer pindas not only for your forefa-thers of your Gotra but even others and pray for their journey to pitruloka. This can include your near and distant relatives, friends, even your enemies. So it would be wise to prepare a list of people for whom you would like to do pinda pradaana, note their gotra, sarma nama (the name by which they are supposed to do their Brahmin karmas) etc. and have the particulars ready. It is a matter of great significance that in the Ramayana we are told that Rama and Sita offered pindas for King Dasaratha. You should consider it as nothing short of a divine blessing that you are doing pinda pradaana at such a sanctified spot.
5. A vegetable, a fruit and a leaf: At Akshaya Vata, you usually take a pledge to drop a vegetable, a fruit and a leaf from your diet and not to eat these for the rest of your life. You decide the names and inform a Purohit there, and he will do the sankalpa for you. At the end of the sankalpa you offer a Brahmin there the consecrated water (tirtha), which he takes, con-firming your pledge. When you finish all the foregoing observances you realize that it is far beyond your usual lunch time, and you didn‟t even feel hungry! Now that you have completed this leg of your stipulated rituals, you eat the pitru sesha bhojana (the remainder of the Sraaddha food).
The legend of Gaya:
Gayasura was a great Asura whose powers of tapas (penance) were comparable to those of Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakasipu. The Devas approached Brahma, Siva and Vishnu – in that order – to make him desist from his penance, as they feared he would ask for boons that could be their undoing. Brahma tried to convince them that Gayasura was of a noble mind and would not ask for anything deleterious to their welfare, but their fears remained. They watched with trepidation as Vishnu offered boons to Gayasura. Gayasura asked the Lord: “Make mine the most sanctified, the purest body on this earth, much purer than even those of devas, rishis, mantras and other sanyasis. And anyone who touches me should be cleansed of all his sins and become pure.” He further prayed: “All Gods, with or without form, should be consecrated at this place as long as this Universe exists. This sthala could be named as Gaya, after me. People who come here to do sraaddha and pinda pradaana should get promotion to Brahmaloka af-ter their death, in spite of any sin that they might have committed on the earth.”
Mahavishnu, who had expected Gayasura to ask for mukti (freedom from rebirth) was pleased that he had prayed for something that would benefit the world at large, and gave him the boon. He was wonderstruck at the sacrificing nature of Gayasura‟s boon-seeking. But the Devas realized that the boon would be a double-edged sword, and could do great harm. This was because one key deterrent to wrongdoing is fear of hell, fear of being condemned. If people were to be rid of this fear by the knowledge that anything they do can be absolved with a visit to Gaya, sins would escalate and the very foundation of Creation would be shaken. They approached Vishnu again. Mahavishnu conveyed their view and anxiety to Gayasura and asked him to offer his body for a yaga (penance). Gayasura was delighted to submit to the Lord‟s wishes and lay down across the Madhuban called Champaka aranya, with the Kola-hala Mountain for a pillow. This became what is Gaya today.
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Gaya Sraaddha
“Akshya Vata is a huge peepul tree, one can sense an exhilarating almost supernatural vibration as you enter Akshaya Vata
Akshaya Vata Vriksha
Buddha Gaya: If you have the time and the inclination, do visit Bud-dha Gaya and the Bodhi tree under which Gautam Buddha got his realization. You can also go to the Buddha temple in this place.
Pratyabdika sraaddha and Gaya Sraaddha: A word about this. It is absurd to think that doing Gaya sraaddha exempts you from do-ing pratyabdika sraaddha or the annual ceremonies for your de-parted parents. This is quite contrary to what the sastras say. If you have a stupendous feast at a five-star hotel one day, don‟t you need to eat the next day or for the rest of your life? Sraaddha at Gaya is a very fulfilling ritual, and one should try to do it in one‟s lifetime. But it has no correlation to the pratyabdika sraaddha that you have to do annually. The annual ceremony has to be done, and there is no exception. When you complete the Gaya sraaddha and touring around Gaya, you will find it difficult to leave Gaya, the place re-nowned as „Pitru Kshetra‟. We had to be literally wrenched away, for the second leg of our tour – Kasi, which we reached after midnight, leaving Gaya at 6:30 in the evening.
Prayaag derives its name from a magnificent Yaga conducted in this city by Brahma with three agni‟s (fires) – Aahavaneeyam in the east, Gaarhapatyam in the west and Dakshinaagni is the south. Prayaag, also called „Tretagni Prayaag‟ for this reason, is situated to the west of Ganga, north of Yamuna and south of Akshaya Vata. The Rig Veda accords Prayaag a very special place. Bhagiratha, as we all know, was responsi-ble for bringing Ganga to the earth. Thanks to his prodigious achievement, not only did the pitrus of Bhagiratha but those of countless other human beings since then have been blessed by Ganga Mata. When we read some of the Rig‟s in Rig Veda about Triveni Sangam, or the confluence of Yamuna and Ganga, which generated from the head of Lord Shiva, we can sense the greatness of Prayaag.
Normally pilgrims from south come to Prayaag first after alighting in Allahabad, com-plete the rites here and then proceed to Kasi.However we went to Kasi first and then to Prayaag from Kasi by car, a distance of 3 hours. Prayaag is the confluence or Sangam of not just Ganga and Yamuna, but the river Saraswati also. But to the human eye only Ganga and Yamuna are visible: Saraswati flows as an undercurrent and cannot be seen. Worship together by a couple, is recommended at Prayaag. The man shaves, takes a bath in the Triveni and does Hiranya Sraaddha. After this the couple perform the puja at the Triveni with the assistance of the Panda. The wife personifies her hus-band as Madhava and he accords her the status of Veni, combs and pleats her hair, cuts off an inch at the tail of the pleat and offers it to the Panda with kunkuma, chan-dana and akshata (saffron, sandal and rice pellets), which the Panda offers to the river. While all the other things float, the hair-piece alone gets sucked into the water and dis-appears.
The word Veni has the meaning of Triveni, and it also connotes the plait of hair. And just like Triveni Sangam, where one of the three merging rivers is not seen, one of the three strands of the pleat is not visible – only two strands are seen. This analogy explains the procedure described for the Dampati Puja.
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Gaya Sraaddha
“it is absurd to think that doing Gaya Sraaddha exempts you from doing pratyabdika sraaddha or the annual ceremonies for your departed parents…”
Triveni Sangam
Bathing in Triveni Sangam: This is a memorable experience. Even as we walk on the shore towards the boat we can feel the sanctity of the occasion. The Panda also gets into the boat with us, as the boat takes off in the Yamuna, and does sankalpa (pledge) for us. Vapana or shaving is also a key aspect of the rite, and so the barber travels with us as well. The boat is brought to a halt at the point of the Sangam, and while you see water all around you, the place where your boat is parked is shallow and you can see the sandy floor of the river. The boats are fastened onto wooden poles specially erected for this pur-pose. A platform is also erected on the water, on which you can stand and take bath.
Collecting Ganga Jal (water from Ganga): It is here that you collect Ganga Jal or the water of sacred Ganga and not in Kasi, as some people believe. You get containers of all shapes and sizes here itself, and the shopkeeper seals the container for you after you have filled it. To get Ganga Jal, your boatman takes you a little further into the river after you finish your bath, and you collect the sacred water of Ganga in the receptacle you may have brought. It is believed that after the bath you should discard the dhoti, saree and blouse etc. you had worn.
The legend of Prayaag:
After the 18-day war of Mahabharat Yudhishtra takes a tally of lives lost in the war on either side. When he realizes that along with his brothers he has been responsible for the deaths of countless blood relations of theirs, he is dumbstruck by the enormity of the sin that would accrue to them. He seeks from Markandeya the way for absolution of the sins.
Markandeya tells Yudhishtra that going to Prayaag is the surest – nay, the only way to ab-solve himself and his brothers of the killing of his blood relations. He explains to Yudhishtra that Prayaag is called „Tirtha Rajan‟ because it has the power to remove your ignorance and cleanse you of all your sins, and the mere setting of foot on its soil has the force equal to the conduct of an „Aswamedha Yaga‟.
Accordingly Yudhishtra goes to Prayaag and performs penance as directed, and acquires the power and glory that equip him with the ability to do great Yagas later, including the Ra-jasuya Yaga. He also gets the title of „Dharma Raja‟, or Rightful King.
The poetic beauty of Triveni Sangam:
It is said that Ganga was exuberant when she saw the earth and leapt to the ground right away and started flowing with abandon till she reached Prayaag. At that point Yamuna ac-costed Ganga and implored her to halt awhile and take her along. Ganga refused, saying “I can‟t stop. Do you know what a tremendous job Bhagiratha has had to do to bring me here? I have to finish the duty of absolving and liberating the souls of all my sons. I have no time to wait”.
Yamuna responds: “You don‟t even have to wait. Just let me flow with you”. Again Ganga de-murs, saying “if you flow with me, my name won‟t be singled out for the absolution that I‟m do-ing”. But Yamuna wins her over by saying “I don‟t want my name to be included. Let it all be to your credit. Unlike you, I have come to the earth of my own will and not after being entreated to do so by Bhagiratha. I am the daughter of Sun God, but I seek no glory – I only wish to serve for the benefit of humankind, and in the bargain realize my own life‟s purpose”. Ganga is awed by the selfless and lofty goals of Yamnua and embraces her with sisterly affection.
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Gaya Sraaddha
“it is here (Triveni Sangam) that you collect Ganga Jal or the water of sacred Ganga and not in Kasi, as some people believe..
Bathing @ Triveni Sangam
The indescribable emotional current that passes through them when they embrace is Saraswati, who emerges and tells both Ganga and Yamuna:
“I am the karta, the creator, of this fusion of soul and wit – emotion and intelligence – of you two. Your Sangam or confluence is therefore incomplete without me, and I will also be coming along. It will be Triveni Sangam, the confluence of three rivers. But I will continue to be an undercurrent and shall not be seen.”
Ganga is white in colour, and pure of heart and mind. Yamuna is black in colour being the progeny of Surya, and again of a spotless, pure mind. Saraswati is grand, impressive and colourless. Such a com-bination cannot but be stupendous – and it is no wonder Prayaag is such a holy spot.
Kumbh Mela
The Kumbh Mela is one of the most prestigious happenings at Prayaag. It occurs once in 12 years, the precise date being decided by stellar configuration, and is simultaneously held at Nasik, Hardwar and Ujjain. The legend of Kumbh Mela is interesting.
The legend of Kumbh Mela:
When the celebrated „Amrit Manthan‟ (the stirring of the Sea of Milk to get nectar) took place, the asuras fought with devas and managed to take possession of the pot. Seeing this, Brihaspati or Garuda snatched it from them and flew to Heaven, to get it back to the devas, with asuras in hot pursuit. On the way, a few drops of the nectar fell in these four places, and sanctified the spots immediately. To commemorate the occasion and to celebrate the holiness of these four spots Kumbh Mela is performed. Devout Hindus throng in their millions to take the holy dip on such occasions and seek absolution for their misdoings.
In the Mahabharata, Pulastya Maharishi expounds the beneficial value and powers of a holy dip in Triveni Sangam. Prayaag is referred to in a couple of other places as well.
If you have the time and the inclination, the following spots in Prayaag are worth a visit:
Bharadwaja Ashram Veni Madhava temple Akshaya Vata Adi Sankara temple (Kanchi mutt) Hanuman temple
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Gaya Sraaddha
“..few drops of nectar fell in these four places and sanctified the spots commemorate the occasion and to celebrate the holiness of these four spots Kumbh Mela is performed….
Kumbh Mela
The sacred river Ganga comes to our mind as soon as we say „Kasi‟ or „Varanasi‟. Though Ganga is revered as holy wherever she flows, nowhere is Ganga snana (bathing in the River Ganga) more sacred than at Kasi.
Three Vaidika karmas are preeminent at Kasi:
Ganga snana Tirtha sraaddha Darshan of Annapoorna Visalakshi sameta Viswanatha Swami and of Kala Bhairava
Ganga snana (bathing in the Ganga): There is no limit to the number of times you can take a dip in holy Ganga – and strangely, your yearning for a dip never seems to ebb, to go down: the theory of marginal utility does not work here.
The very first bath in Ganga that you take should be as directed by a priest, as a „pavitra-paani‟ (a person with the Darbha-pavitra on his hand i.e. finger). Subsequent baths can be as many as you want, and there are few rules on how. The craving for a dip in Kasi Ganga of the average devout Hindu is too well-known to need repetition. That is perhaps why, when he or she overcomes many an ordeal to land in Kasi and finally take the bath, the happiness and contentment arising from Ganga snana is incredible.
Witness the power of Ganga Mata, who unites people from all over the nation who speak dif-ferent tongues and are of varied castes and sub-castes with the one common goal of a dip at Kasi, and you get a feel for the command of Kasi as well as Ganga. No one seems to mind the crowd, the filth, the stench, the narrow lanes and by-lanes etc. They have only one thing on their minds while at Kasi – Ganga snana.
Ganga, the perennial river, sanctifies everyone who bathes in it. She absolves you of sins accu-mulated over the years, asking in return for just one thing from you: humility and unquestioning devotion. The mere sight of Ganga gives you peace and tranquillity, helps you find answers for umpteen problems you face in day-to-day life, and – most important – makes you take your first steps in spiritual awakening. Kasi, after all, means light – so here is where you „see the light‟. We took our Ganga snana at Kedar Ghat, collected Ganga water in pots and came to our place of stay to perform Tirtha Sraaddha immediately. This is the recommended routine.
Tirtha Sraaddha: This sraaddha is like any pratyabdika sraaddha (annual death ceremony that we do or deceased parents). Except for a slightly different sankalpa, the procedures are similar. Five Brahmins are invited for the bhojana (eating).
Pancha Ganga Sraaddha: This sraaddha involves pinda pradaana at five ghats while you are in motion – that is, on a boat ride, sitting in the boat itself. On the appointed dates we cook pindam‟s, take and keep them in a boat, and offer 17 pindam‟s at each of the five ghats with pinda pradaana sankalpa. Ubhaya-vamsa tila tarpana has also to be done – this is the tarpana for pitrus of the vamsa‟s of both the husband and wife. Occasionally the placid Ganga gets flooded and the authorities refuse permission for doing the pancha Ganga sraaddha in motion, from the boat. This happened to us, unfortunately. We therefore had to engage a rickshaw, go to each of the ghats and perform the pinda pradaana and tarpana on the shores.
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“your yearning for a dip never seems to ebb, to go down at Ganga, the theory of marginal utility does not work here!!!.
Boat rides on the Ganga: The predominant emotion you have when you go for a boat ride on the Ganga is devotion or bhakti. It is nothing short of a spiritual experience and involves the darshan or viewing of all the 64 ghats slowly, one by one. The boatman takes us to within 100 feet of every single ghat, and the names of all ghats are etched in his memory. It is a ride guaranteed to suffuse you with an exalted feeling. The sights are truly unforgettable – of the temples and other buildings around each ghat, of the hordes of people bathing or praying or otherwise in communion with God.
We started our ride with Asi Ghat and I remember some names: Tulsi, Riwa, Chasing, Anadamayi, Kedar, Tripura Bhairavi, Hanuman, Vijayanagar, Chowki, Kshemeswar, Mansarovar, Narada, Pandya, Munshi, Darbhanga, Ahilya-bai, Seetala, Dasaashwamedha, Prayaag, Manmandir, Mir, Lalita, Manikarnika, Durga, Brahma, Lal, Trilochan, Naya, Raj, Prahlad, Harishchandra....
Manikarnika Ghat: This is a cremation ghat, to which dead bodies are brought, presumably of people dying in Kasi. We do not hear lamentations and sorrowful crying when bodies are received here for cremation: only chants of Rama nama or salutations to Mahadeva. The body is first immersed in the Ganga, and after it dries the paanda does the cremation to the accompaniment of mantras. In a short while the body is reduced to ashes, which are then im-mersed in the Ganga.
Harishchandra Ghat is another such cremation ghat. Despite seeing death and karmas for departed souls all around you, you never feel the heaviness or trepidation that death usually evokes. Instead your mind switches to the philosophical mode, about the inevitability of death and what you can and should do in your lifetime to make sure of a safe passage for your soul after death. This is a truly defining moment in one‟s life.
As you travel across Kasi on the boat along the river, you wonder if it is Ganga that adds piety to Kasi, or it is the other way round. As you debate this within yourself, the truth dawns on you – the two are seamlessly intertwined and the sanctity is a blend that owes as much to Kasi as it does to Ganga Mata. The other striking feature of Kasi, which has been written and argued about endlessly by different people with different personal agendas, is the es-sential purity of the Ganga. The river presents a weird coexistence of the sublime and the earthy: you see scenes of Harati and pious offerings immersed in the river, and at the same time bodies being burnt and ashes immersed, people bathing and washing their dirt into Ganga, and the waste of the town merging into the river.
How can Ganga be then called „pure‟? It is not even clean, let alone pure. My wife instinc-tively asked me this question as a welter of happenings around her. I could offer only one response: with all the impurities dissolving into the waters of Ganga, do we ever hear of anyone being infected as a result of a dip in Ganga? At least I have not. Is that a clinching argument in favour of Ganga‟s chastity? I think so. I don‟t know.
Ganga Haarati: An awesome sight not to be missed by visitors to Kasi is the Ganga Harati celebrated with gaiety and splendour at Manikarnika Ghat at 7 p.m. every evening. This and the performance of Dampati Puja should be definitely on your schedule while in Kasi.
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“as you travel across Kasi on the boat along the river you wounder if it is Ganga that adds piety to Kasi or it is the other way round…”
The legend of Varanasi: River Varuna from the north of Kasi and river Asi from the south merge into the Ganga inside the city, and it is said the city got its name Varanasi as a result, right from Sat Yuga. Kasi is a renowned place of pilgrimage for all Hindus. The Sastras aver that Lord Siva created the city standing atop his Trishul. It is believed that Bhagvan Sankara still lives here, and that anyone dying in Kasi is sure to attain Sivaloka (moksha). There are many who come to Varanasi in the last stage of their lives in the hope that they will breathe their last here and their souls will be liberated for-ever from the cycle of birth and death.
Kasi Viswanatha temple: Kasi, one of the seven „Mukti sthalas‟ in India for Hindus, hosts one of the Jyotirlingas at the imposing Viswanatha temple. The darshan of the temple and Jyotirlinga is a dream come true for every devout Hindu. It is here that you get decisive proof of the unity of our nation in the backdrop of its mas-sive diversity. Young and old, male and female, poor and rich, north and south, educated and illiterate – they all mingle freely here, and are as one before God. You should see the narrow two-way lane that takes you to the temple, called Viswanath Galli. You jostle with one another, make snail‟s progress on important days and at important times, you are subjected to quite a lot of incon-venience – but it simply does not affect you. The anticipation of seeing the Linga when you are going to the temple and the exhilaration of having seen it when you return overshadow all your physical and mental tribulations.
The legend of the temple: The Viswanatha temple you see now is a small one, but the origi-nal temple was a huge edifice. It was razed to the ground and all its wealth and riches looted and taken away in 1193 AD by Qutbuddin, the lieutenant of Mohammed Gori. The Viswanatha linga alone was somehow saved and worshipped secretly for many years. Raja Todarmal built a new temple in 1585 AD and the Linga consecrated, but even this temple was destroyed by Aurangzeb and a mosque constructed in its place. So what we now have is a mosque in the location earlier occupied by the Viswanatha temple. After Aurangzeb left a small temple was built and the Linga was consecrated again, and this is now the Kasi Viswanatha temple we all go to and pray at. The Linga and the temple have lost none of their glory, though: millions of devotees offer devout prayers every day and take away de-vout memories.
Sri Annapoorani temple: Situated towards the south of Viswanatha temple, Sri Annapoorani temple is a must-see for every devotee. Naturally the beautiful Annapoornashtakam com-posed by Sri Adi Sankara comes to our mind when we enter this temple. We start chanting and singing: “Krupavalamba nagari Kasi puraadheeswari / Mata Annapoorneswari bhikshan dehi”. While Jaganmata Annapoorna is resplendent in the bright light, we also get the dar-shan of the golden Annapoorani behind the screen.
Sri Kala Bhairava temple: We have heard of Kasi kayiru (the Kasi thread, a black thread we wear around our wrist). This is sold at this place. The thread is supposed to be worn on the right wrist by men and on the left wrist by women, and is reputed to have powers of dosha-nivrutti‟ or removal of defects in our horoscopes or stellar placements. A Panda who stands there lightly pats us on the back with a peacock feather, and that is said to take care of the defects.
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“...naturally the beautiful Annapoornashtakam composed by Sri Adi Sankara comes to our mind when we enter this temple…”
Goddess Annapurna
Rameswaram visit in the first and the last leg of the tour: A typical Kasi pilgrimage begins with a visit to Rameswaram to offer prayers to the Gods for the forthcoming Kasi yatra. At Rameswaram you take a handful of sand and keep it, for dissolving in Triveni Sangam at Prayaag, in the second leg of your tour. At Prayaag you collect Ganga jal (water from the Ganga) and take it back to Rameswaram in the third and final leg of the pilgrimage for doing abhisheka of Ramanatha Swami. This ancient proc-ess has endured down the ages and is followed even today.
Recommended procedure after returning: On returning from a tour of Prayaag-Gaya-Varanasi or any of these sthala‟s, you may perform a Samaaraadhana followed by Brahmana Bhojana. The puja and archana, replete with Ashtotra chanting in praise of Ganga Mata, Kasi Viswanatha and Bhageerathi, will be a fitting finale to the pilgrim-age. It is at this function that you can also distribute Kasi Kayiru, Kasi Sombu and other memorabilia that you may have bought for your friends and relatives.
Advance planning
For a package tour of Gaya, Kasi and Prayaag, you are well-advised to keep Kasi as the centre-point or hub and decide the place of stay at Kasi well in advance. Similarly, it is important to know the cost options and match option that best fits your budgetary and other constraints. You should keep as little room as possible for on-the-spot deci-sions, because these can prove prohibitively costly.
And please remember the sequence: Prayaag, Gaya and Kasi is the right order in which you should undertake the pilgrimage. And without including the travel days, the minimum time you should set aside for the entire program is five days, preferably six.
Dana materials including Veshti
For the Paarvana Sraaddha at Gaya and Prayaag you may take the dhotis (9x5 ve-shti) to offer to vidhikaas there instead of buying them there, as it could save you quite a penny. You may require 12 dhotis in all. You may also buy and take dana materials like tirtha patra etc. from home if you so wish. For the Dampati Puja at Kasi again, you may want to take the required items – sari and related clothing, metti (ornament for the toes), tirumangalyam (ornament around the neck) and other mangala dravya‟s (pristine articles for good augury) – from home after buying them locally where you live, instead of buying them in Kasi. Some people pay money in lieu of the materials.
Importance of local Purohits
Some devotees take their own Vadhyar (Family sastrigal) along with them for the entire tour, and offer them Acharya Sambhavana on return. This is perfectly in order; but at different places on the tour the karmas have to be carried out only with the local pan-dits/vadhyars at the respective places.
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“at Prayaag you collect Ganga Jal and take it back to Rameshwaram in the third and final leg of the pilgrimage for doing Abhiseka of Ramanatha Swami
Ganga Jal
Can be done on any day
Unlike in the case of the Pratyabdika Sraaddha (annual ceremony), tithi or paksha need not be taken into consideration for performing sraaddha at Gaya. We can perform the Pitru karma at Gaya on any day.
Our attitude
As far as possible you should take the rough with the smooth on a typical Gaya-Kasi pilgrimage. There will be plenty of things you will need to outsource to the locals, be it karmas to be done by the Kasi Pandas or Gaya purohits, or tours to be organized by your local contact. And quite possibly some of these may not be turn out as you would have liked. On such occasions, you should take it in your stride and be satisfied with what you got, instead of making a song-and-dance. After all you have travelled all the way for cleansing your dosha‟s, and for attaining the mature wisdom that man proposes and God disposes, and it is His supreme will that shall prevail. So it would be sensible not to add to your dosha‟s by criticising someone or hurting others in the process of yatra.
Less luggage makes travel a pleasure
This dictum is particularly worth emulating for a Gaya tour.
Madi, Aacharam and Kaalam
Like tithi and paksha, which do not matter here, you may have to make exceptions in regard to kala (time), madi (personal sanctity) and aahara (food) as well. None of these are entirely in your control during the trip and so it would be best not to be too finicky. You may end up eating at all kinds of times, or doing pinda pradaana after madhyahni-kam, which you would normally not do.
Remembering and constantly practising two things will make your Gaya-Kasi trip won-derfully satisfying: first, you are in an alien place and so learning and adopting their rules and regulations; and second, where you are not sure of the process, go with your guide‟s directions and in the absence of these, simply listen to your heart and do its bid-ding.
Mangalani Bhavanthu
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Gaya Sraaddha
“you should take it in your stride and be satisfied with what you got, instead of making a son and dance...
CHENNAI 600 024
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S Swaminatha Sarma is now known as Sarma Sastrigal and affectionately ad-dressed as Sarmaji by his friends. He hails from Kumbakonam.
He learnt Veda from his father Brahmasri Srinivasa Sastrigal. Later Sriman Sankarji, his spiritual Guru, guided him to understand our age-old tradition and the fundamentals of our Dharma Sastras.
He considers it his Janmantra Sukrtam, that he had the privilege of having the darshan of all the three Acharyas of Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt - Sri Sri Maha Swa-migal, Sri Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal and Sri Sri Vijayendra Saraswati Swamigal - on several occasions and receiving their blessings. He also had the privilege of having the blessings of HH 44th Jeeyar and HH 46th Jeeyar of Sri Ahobila Mutt.
Sarma Sastrigal, now 63, devotes his full time in the noble pursuit of disseminat-ing the knowledge of our scripts. He teaches several groups of interested peo-ple the philosophical, conceptual as well as practical aspects of our scriptures.
He is also a performing Sastrigal and conducts all types of Vaidika Karmas.
“The Great Hindu Tradition” written by this author is a veritable encyclopedia on our Sanatana Dharma. The book, released and blessed by Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati, guides the reader on the what, why and how of our Sastras. Well written, the book demystifies Hindu Philosophies and rituals and presents them in a simple, easy to understand manner.
“Brahmashri Sarma Sastrigal, an ardent devotee of our Srimatam, has written many books in Tamil on the performance of Vedic rituals. His latest book, „The Great Hindu Traidtion‟ in English seems to be an encyclopedia on the rituals of our Sanatana Dharma.
It is observed that he has taken great strain in bringing out this book only to make the younger generation of the Hindu community to realize the intricacies of the Vedic way of life. This book will certainly help us know about our hoary heritage”
- Excerpts from the Srimukham, Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt

Friday, December 02, 2016


List of  0ld  Agraharams  in  Palakkad 

  1. Adityapuram
  1. Alampallam
  1. Ambikapuram
  1. Anicode
  1. Avinjipadam
  1. Ayakaad
  1. Ayalur
  1. Ayilam
  1. Ayilur
  1. Ayyapankavu
 11.  Chandrasekharapuram
12.  Chathapuram
13.  Chembai
14.  Chittoor (Lankeswaram)
15.  Chittoor (Thekke Gramam)
16.  Chittoor (Vadakke Gramam)
17.  Chokkanathapuram
 18.  Elamblassery
19.  Elappulli
20.  Ennappadam
21.  Erumayur
 22.  Govindarajapuram
 23.  Kalpathi (Old)
24.  Kalpathi (New)
25.  Kallur
26.  Kannambra  ?
27.  Kanniampuram
28.  Karimpuzha
29.  Karimassery
30.  Kavassery Mullakkal Gramam
31.  Kavassery Nellithara Gramam
32.  Kavassery Iswara Pattar Gramam
33.  Kavassery Ottupuari Gramam
34.  Kavassery  Kongalakode Gramam
35.  Kavassery  Nanu Pattar Gramam
36.  Kizhakkancheri
37.  Kodumbu
38.  Koduvayur
  1. Kollancode Perumalkoil gramam
  1. Kollancode Pudugramam
  1. Kollancode  Kizhakkegramam
  1. Kongad
  1. Koottalai
  1. Kottayi near Chembai
  1. Kozhimuttam
  1. Kozhindirapalli
  1. Koodallur
  1. Kumarapuram
  1. Kunnisseri
  1. Kuzhalmannam
  1. Lakshminarayanapuram
  1. Manappadam
  1. Manjapra Periya Gramam
  1. Manjapra Chinna Gramam
  1. Mathur (Vadakke gramam)
  1. Mathur (Thekke gramam)
  1. Mangalam (Thekke Gramam)
  1. Mangalam (Vadakke Gramam)
  1. Manjeri
  1. Mekanamkulam
  1. Melarcode Thekke gramam
  1. Melarcode Vadakke gramam
  1. Melarcode  Chathacode
  1. Nelleppalli
  1. Nellisseri
  1. Nemmara (Kannimangalam)
  1. Nemmara (Krishnapuram)
  1. Nemmara (puthugramam)
  1. Nemmara (pazhayagramam)
  1. Nochur
  1. Nurani
  1. Padur Thekke Gramam
  1. Padur Patinjare Gramam
  1. Pallassana (Kizhakke gramam)
  1. Pallassana (Merke gramam)
  1. Pallavur
  1. Pallipuram
  1. Pallanchathanur
  1. Panamgattiri
  1. Parakulam (Kizhakke Gramam)
  1. Parakulam (Patinjare Gramam)
  1. Payyalur
  1. Pazhampalacode
  1. Perumkulam Thekke Gramam
  1. Perumkulam Varadarajapermal Theru
  1. Peruvamba Kizhakke Gramam
  1. Peruvamba Valeswaram Gramam
  1. Pirayiri
  1. Puducode (Kizhakke Gramam)
  1. Puducode (Thekke Gramam)
  1. Puthucode (Merke Gramam)
  1. Puducode (Vadakke Gramam
  1. Ramanathapuram
  1. Rishinaradamangalam
  1. Sekharipuram
  1. Tharakad
  1. Thathamangalam (Kizhakke gramam)
  1. Thathamangalam (Merke gramam)
  1. Thathamangalam (Thekke gramam)
100.   Thenkurissi
101.   Thennilapuram
102.   Thirunellai
103.   Thondukulam
104.   Thrithamarai
 105.   Vadakkanthara
106.   Vadakkancheri
107.   Vadavannur
108.   Vandazhi
109.   Vellinezhi
110.   Vengasseri
111.   Venkateswarapuram
112.   Vettaikkorumakankavu
113.   Vilayannur
114.   Vydianathapuram


Sunday, November 02, 2014



The importance of Sandhya Upasana and the meaning relating to the Krishna Yajurveda Sandhya Vandana - Mantras therein.
Our Vedas propagate Santana Dharma (code of righteous conduct). They guide us to attain knowledge of the Self. Vedas show the way  to attain the desired objectives  and  for  removal   of  all  our  Sins  and  impediments  in  life.  They also show the way to know the   Real Truth which is beyond our perceptions and inferences. Dharma Bodha is the main ingredient that differentiates human beings from animals.  It is good for us to see that animal within us dies so that man within us lives.  It is well known that Vedas are   pramanam for   all our doubts. ( Veda  Akhilo Dharma  Moolam).Righteous  code  of conduct  as  prescribed  in vedas  is  Dharma.  Those who protect vedas will certainly get divine blessings.  Vedic injunctions are permanent and cannot be altered. (Dharmo Rakshati Rakhitah).
Vedas are treasure trove of Hindu religion; tradition and culture containing code of righteous conduct. They are eternal commands for shaping man’s good conduct and for developing impeccable character.  Smrithi has divided Dharma into 6 parts. They are Varna Dharma Ashrama Dharma, Varnasrama Dharma, Guna dharma, Nimitha Dharma and day to day Sadharana Dharma.
Ahimsa-Truthfulness-Non-stealing- Soucham-Control of mind- all come under normal Sadharana Dharma. According to Varna Dharma  the  daily  six routine duties  are  Sandhya,Japam, Homam,Devatha Poojanam,Adhithyam and  Vaiswadevam. The  duties ( karmas)  under the  head  of  Vedas are  classified  as  follows:-  NITHYAM- NAIMITHIKAM  - KAMYAM  AND  PRATHISHIDHAM.
Nithyakarma:- by  performing   this  no special  punya ( moral  good) is  acquired-But  by  not performing  the same  papas ( sins) are accrued.
Naimithikam: - Karma to be performed because of special occasions like Tharpanam during Eclipse etc.
Kamyam: - This is performed to obtain the desired result. Like invoking Lord Varuna in the sacrifice to get rain.
Nishidham: - Such karmas which should not be followed or performed.
By  performing  daily  karmas with  sradha and  devotion  one can  obtain Chitha  Sudhi  which  is  a  preliminary  requirement   to  progress  further  in  our  life.
Sandhya is the best time to perform Dhyana or meditation. The twilight time between the day and night is called Sandhya. Sandhya  is  also called  as  Sakthi from which  entire  world  has  come  into existence and  is beyond  Maya and  formed  out of  three tatwas  i.e.  Jeeva-Eswara- and Nature.  Sandhya  Upasana  is a vaidheeka  karma by which  one  pray the Supreme Lord  to  forgive  us   and to  remove  all  our  sins. Tejas is a derivative of Jnanam. Similarly water is the derivative of worship.  While  performing  Sandhya  Upasana we  offer  water  as  worship to  the Supreme  Lord and  by  doing  that  we  surrender  ourselves   to  Him in  totality. Long life ; Knowledge; Fame; Name; and  Brahma Tejas  can be  acquired  by  performing  Daily  Sandhya  with  Sradha  and  devotion. Sandhya  Anushtanam  is  a must  daily duty  and  the  real  strength  of  the  Brahmanism  is  in the  this  worship. Earlier days   ARGHYAM- GAYATHRI JAPAM- AND DHYANAM (MEDITATION) were the main ingredients for all followers of Veda.  But on  later stages different methods came into existence.
To  mention  a  few additions that  came  into existence  are    Jalaprathana  Mantra,  Devatha  Tharpanam, Slokas  from  puranas, Siva Vishnu  and  Yama Vandanams etc. Upasthana Mantras also vary from one Veda Shaka to another.  Whatever it may be the ultimate aim is to acquire Chitha Sudhi.   By  this  one  can   get  rid  of  one’s  sins and  this  lead  to  Jnanam  which  in turn leads  to Moksha  in the  end.
In Sandhya  Upasana a  person who  knows that the sun is the  same  as the  Supreme Brahman meditates  on the  sun  and perform  circumambulation  enjoys  all happiness. He who  knows  this  secret of    identity   that  he  himself  is  Brahman, attains  Brahman. Sandhya   means the time when day and night meet and vandanam means thanks giving   to the Lord Supreme. Performing of Madhyahnikam is an orthodox derivation.
The first and foremost function in the Sandhya upasana is Achamanam.  They  are  of  three types  ( Sruti – Smrithi-  Purana) Sruti  achamanam is  mentioned in  the  Taittareeya Aranyaka- where it is said that the  following  mantra “ Vidhyudasi Vidhya  may Papmanam ritaat  sathya  Mupaimi” is chanted and water is touched.  Meaning   of this rik is as follows: - You are lightening. Remove my sins.  Through truth I attain unto Truth. After washing  hands -Three time  achamanam  is  followed  by  two time  lips wash and  again after  washing  of palm  head,eyes,ears,nose,heart  etc.  are touched (This system is followed during Brahma Yagna).  Smrithi Achamanam is of two types. Srauta and Smartha.  In srauta,   achamanam is  followed by  recitation  of  three pada  Gayathri  then  21 parts  of  the  body  are touched. While  performing  mantras  are  recited- nine ablingas  by apohista mantra seven  vyakruthees-Three pada  Gayathri and ending  with  Om  apo jyotheerasa:  Amrutam Brahma. In Smartha  achamanam laid  down  by  Manu/Yajnavalkya  and  others-achamanam  is  performed  two times  then  lips  are washed twice and then  cleaning palm,  mouth and other sensory organs are touched. In Purana  achamanam-Water  is  sipped  thrice and  several  parts  of  body  touched. Each single operation being accompanies by repetitive   of a distinctive names or Lord Vishnu or Lord Siva. (practice differ from place to place).
After Lord Ganapathy Dhyanam, pranayama is done by mentally reciting the mantra. Sankalpa – determination  with  mental  resolve  to  perform the  Sandhya  upasana  is  followed  thereafter.( In some places  Jala Prarthana “ Apo   va  idagum Sarvam…”mantra is chanted that  too  only  for  the  morning  Sandhya).
MARJANA MANTRA: - It is well known that You the deities of water are the cause of great happiness. Please nourish us with the divine vision which brings glory and loveliness. Please make us worthy of imbibing the auspicious bliss even as a mother feeds her children. We approach you with eagerness for that bliss, to distribute, which you have taken a form and are shining. Bestow on us the boon of a next life sanctified by knowledge.
PRAASANAMANTRA: - They are three in numbers for each time zone. (Morning   Sun God- After noon Holy water and in the evening Lord Agni).  May Sun /Agni’/Varuna  and  the  God  of  anger and  the Lords presiding  over  anger; save me from the sins  caused by  anger. Whatever sins I have committed; by mind, speech, hands, feet, belly, and the sensual organ may the Lord of the departed night/day remove all that and whatever other sins that may be in me. I sacrifice in the Self, illuminous light, the eternal first cause. As an  emblem  of  such  sacrifice, I pour down this  consecrated water as  libation in my mouth , which  shall be  the  sacrificial fire. May  this sacrifice of mine become well offered.( Here  water  represents the  sinner and  all his  sins and  pouring down of water  typifies the  act  of  sacrifice)
It is said in the vedas that energy of the sun passes on to Agni in the evening.  Hence the substitution of Agni Lord for Surya in the evening Sandhya Upasana
In  Madhyahnikam  Sandhya  Upasana  praasana mantra  meaning  is  as  follows:-May the  waters purity  the  earth by pouring  down rain.  May the earth thus purified make me pure.  May  the waters purify  my spiritual preceptor  and  may the  Veda as taught  by  him purify me. Whatever  impure food  I may have taken, whatever  I may have  received  as  gift from the  unworthy, may  the  waters  destroy all that sins and purify me; and for  this purpose, I pour  this sanctified water  as  libation down my mouth  as  sacrifice.
Then  come  second  Marjanam (Punarmarjanam):- I make obeisance  to the Supreme Person who  supports, rules and  sustains all the worlds, who is ever  victorious  and  who has taken  the  form of  Hayagreeva the  repository of all knowledge. May He make our faces and other organs fragrant. May He protect our lives. (the remaining   meaning  - as stated in the   first Marjanam).
The performer  after attaining  his  outer  and  inner purification then offer Arghyam ( offering  water respectfully  to the  Supreme  Lord). The sanctified – water-consecrated-  by   chanting  of Gayathri  mantra  and thrown upwards with both hands ; becoming  thunderbolts, hurl the evil spirits to an island called  Aruna ;  where dwells  the evil spirits called  Mandehas. (By this act entire world is protected) 
Meaning of Gayathri Mantra: We meditate on the adorable light of the supreme creator of the universe. May He (existing in our mind in the form of light) guide our intellects in the pursuit of the Truth.
Prayaschitha Arghyam is followed   for not offering   the arghyam on time.
Aikyanusandhanam:  Asavadityo Brahma Brahmmaeva Ahamasmi. Means:-The Sun is Brahman and I too am Brahman.
Next  comes Tharpanam  to  Navagraha and  Dwadasa names  of  Vishnu, This  Tharpanam is considered  as Puranic  additions and no reference  is made  to them  in the  Taittareeya Aranyaka (  as opined  by  learned people) Hence  it  is  stated  that  these  additions  are inconsistent with the spirit of   the  Vedic Sandhya- which is  a  prayer  directed  to theone  alone “ without  a second.
(Here  ends  the  first  part  of  the Upasana called  Sandhya . The  second  part is called  Japam.)
It  is  reported  by  learned  people  that   popularly  known  as  Three pada Gayathri  has  got  a turiya ( Fourth)  pada  also. This  should be  revealed only to the one who is properly initiated.  Meaning  of  this  pada  “PARORAJASE  ASAVADOM” -  He who is beyond  all  phenomenon, He is  Bliss , He is eternal  OM. This fourth pada is  hidden  in the  Vedas-Hence  not  visible. (  Mantra Drashta for the  turiya pada of the Gayathri  is  Vimala  Rishi- Chandas  is  Tureeyam and  Devatha  is  Paramatma.)
Gayathri Avahanam: May  the  Goddess Gayathri Devata-who grants  all  our desires come to us  to make  known to us  the eternal Lord, who is  revealed to us only  through the  scriptures. May  the  Gayathri  the mother  of all  the vedas reveal to us  the  eternal  Truth.
Devi Gayathri – you  are the source  of all spiritual strength . You  are  the power  that  drive away the evil  inclination  which  are  my enemies You  are conducing  to   a sound   mind which conduces to a  sound body. You are the light  of  the Gods; that  dispel  my  intellectual darkness and  illuminate my heart with  divine wisdom.  You are everything. You are  Eternal Truth that destroys  all  our sins.  You  are  the  pranava that reveals  to me  the  unknown, Come to me Oh! Goddess Gayathri and make me wise.
After  invocation of  Gayathri comes  enumeration of  the  four  principal  characteristics of the  Gayathri Rik. Mantra Drashta: (Rishi)- Chandas ( metre) –Devatha  ( praise  of the  Devatha  it  sings)- Viniyoga( The purpose  to which  the Rik is  applied)
For  Gayathri  Mantra consists of Pranava ( OM)-  Vyakruthees  ( Bhu: Bhuvaha: Swaha:) and Savithri mantra- which   already  existed . This  combination  was revealed  to  Sage Viswamitra who  in turn  gave  this to the  world. He  is   the  mantra  Drashta –Chandas  ( metre)   the  number  of  letters in the  Savithri mantra  equally  divided  into three parts of  eight  letters each and has  24  letters. Devatha for Gayathri is   Savithri- the  supreme Lord  Paramatma. Viniyoga: Prayer for sayujya  or  absorption through  knowledge  into  the  universal  soul. (  There are  Angannyasa and karannyasa that are followed by few, before    chanting  of  Gayathri mantra- elders  say that  these  are   of  tantric  origin).
After  completion of   Gayathri  Japa   Gayathri Upasthana  follows:-
The Goddess  Gayathri  resides  on  a  lofty peak on the  summit of mount  Meru in the  earth.  Oh! Goddess take  leave  from the persons who have  worshiped  you and who have  been blessed with your  grace  and  go back  to your  abode  as  comfortably  as  possible.
Morning  Upasthana  Mantra  Meaning:-  We sing  the  adorable  glory  of the  Sun God, who  sustains  all men by  causing  rain, which  glory is eternal and  most  worthy  of being  adored  with wonder.
The sun well knowing  the  inclinations of  several men directs them to their  several  pursuits, the  sun upholds both heaven and   earth. The sun observes  all creatures  and  their action  ( Karma Sakshi) without ever winking  to  this  eternal being . We  offer  the  oblation mixed  with  clarified  butter. Oh! Sun God  may  that man who through such sacrifice  offers oblation to you become  endowed with  wealth for he who is under your protection is not cut-off by  untimely  death. He is not vanquished by anybody and  sin has no hold on this man either  from near  or  from  far.
MADHYAHNIHA  UPSTHANA  MANTRA :- The Lord  Savita  daily appears  in the heaven. He  sustains Gods and Men ( He  confers  on men eternal Bliss  or  a mortal body once more  accordingly  as  they  acquit  themselves on earth) He comes  in golden chariot illuminating  all worlds. Adoring  the Sun  God  among  the  Gods, the loftier light  that rests  above  darkness or Sin, we attain most  excellent  light. His rays bearing him a lot, the God who knows the ways of all living beings; Surya, that all my look on Him adore Him- and become wise. The  wonderful collection of rays  has  risen ( the orb of light). This  orb is the eye of  the earth, air, and heaven. This orb has filled the earth ,air, and heaven with light everywhere. Sun God  is  the soul of all things that move and  all that move not. This  brilliant eye the  orb  of the Sun ,on whom as  lord  of  sacrifices; the devas depend for their oblations, rises  in the east. May we live  a hundred years  to see Him. May we live   plenty  through His grace. May we  be happy  in  His  presence for a hundred years. May we through His grace live secure in our homes. May we learn the  secrets  of  Vedic  theosophy from our  guru, and may we  gladly  impart  the same  to our  disciples. May we never meet the  reverses, and may we  long live  to see and adore  Him. May He who rises with resplendent glory from the midst  of  waters, out of the eastern ocean- the  bright eyed and all wise Surya, who shower all blessings on His worshipers,  may  make me  pure  in mind.
EVENING  UPASTHANA MANTRA:-  Hear  Oh!  Varuna  Lord this prayer of mine. Be gracious  unto me this day, longing  for your protection. I pray to you. ( This  prayer  rik is said  to have been taught  by  Sage  Viswamitra to Sunassephah, when he was  tied  to the  sacrificial post and about  to be  immortalized by  Harischandra to appease  the  wrath of  Lord  Varuna. This prayer saved him from death.)  Adoring you with prayer, I beg  long life  from you, the sacrificer does the same  with oblations he offers to you; therefore, Lord  Varuna without indifference  in this matter,  take  my prayer  into your kind consideration and do not cut off our lives. Oh! Lord Varuna, whatever law of yours we, as men, violate day after day,  forgives us  for those trespasses. ( The ethical consciousness  of human frailty and the appeal for mercy and forgiveness based on such consciousness find a beautiful  and simple earnest expression  in this  Rik). Oh! Lord  Varuna  whatever  offence we, as men, have committed against divine beings, whatever work of yours, we have neglected through  ignorance, do not destroy us, for such sins. Whatever  offence  is attributed to us by our  enemies as by gamblers at dice, whatever sins we may have really committed  and what we may  have done  without knowing , please destroy all those sins. Also pray that we shall become  beloved to You.
Then  follows  prayer  to Gods  residing  in  all directions. Kamam Akarsheet  Manyu Akarsheet  mantra  follows. This  a  shortened version of  the  actual  mantra  in the  Veda. Whatever  sins  I have  committed,  has been done by passion  or  anger and not by me- hence forgive me. Oh! Lord  I bow to you again  and  again.
Sandhya  prayer now closes  with  Abhivadanam  or salutation. The practice of reciting  at this  stage  a few slokas  from puranas and  slokas  in  praise  of  Lord  Vishnu, Siva, Yama  does not form integral part of  Vedic  Sandhya  Upasana.  After Raksha mantra  the whole ceremony is brought to a close by an internal purification of  the body by  Achamanam and dedicating the entire service gone through to  Para Brahman.
Summing  up: -  Sandhya  Upasana service  is simply a thanks giving and  a prayer to the Universal Lord. It begins with external purification of  body by sprinkling  of water by chanting  few hymns,  and internal  purification by sipping  few drops  of  consecrated water. We  pray all sins  committed during the preceding  12  hours be washed  away.
After  conducting purificatory functions, the worshiper feel that he is worthy of  approaching  the Supreme Lord and pays his  adorations to Him, by offering of water according to traditional  usage. He  looks at the  Sun Lord  and makes his offering.  His offerings are  really to the Paramatman,  the  nameless one. Sun is only  visible  symbol of God’s power and  glory. He praises with Vedic hymns and  implores  Him  to forgive him; his  sins and vouch safe to him- His grace and Blessings.
Sandhya  Vandanam  is one of the few  remaining links that unite us to a  glorious past. It is  duly rendered imperative by solemn  voice of  Vedic injunction. It is a  distinctive  badge for us.
Na  annam  udagam  dhanam   na  thithir  dwadasee  samaha:  Na Gayathrya  paro mantrah:  Na  Mathur  daivadam param.
The  highest  Dhanam  on earth is   Anna  Dhanam.  Similarly   nothing  is more  important than Dwadasee  Thithi,  Gayathri Mantra, and Mother.
Achuta Ananta Govinda Namocharana Bheshajad Nasyanthi Sakala Rogath Sathyam Sathyam Vadamyaham.
Chanting of  Glory of  God is  considered  as medicine for all diseases. Hence  the importance of  achamanam by chanting  the Lord’s name. This  is  called  Nama Trayee Vidhya.
As  we  are  doing  the  Nithya karma  without expecting  any  result in return and  by totally surrendering  to the Lord  and  in  a  samarpana Bhavana  we  invoke  the  Lord  name by chanting  Parameswara    Preethyartham  in the  Sankalpa. 
Gayathri  mantra protects  the person one who sings His Glory. Another version  is  Gayan  Pranan  trayatheethi  Gayathri. i.e.  Mantra  Gayathri protects the   pancha  pranas. It  contain  24  vaidheeka  Chandas. Hence  it  is  called  Gayathri. Each  8  padas  are  taken  from  the   Rik,Yajus and Sama  Veda  respectively in that order. Sarva Veda Saram is  Gayathri Mantra.  Gayathri mantra  is hidden inside  the  Vyakruthees and  Vyakruthees are  hidden inside   Pranava  “OM”. And  that  OM is  Paramatman.
There  are  three  types  of  methods  to do Gayathri Japam.
Vachikam- Upamsu- Manasam.
Chanting  letters and padas clearly  with  swaras like  Udhatham,Anudhatham,swaritam and Prachaya  is called  Vachikam.
Moving  the  lips and  the chanting  can be  heard by only  the  kartha is called  Upamsu.
Reciting in the mind without producing  any  sound  whatsoever is called  Manasam. Maximum result and  effect  can be obtained by this  method.
Sandhya Upasana   is a  sadhana ( spiritual practice)  to bring about the  conjunction  ( Sandhi) of the individual  self  with  the Cosmic Self to realise  the  unity  of both. ( Aham  Brahmasmi)  (  Brahmeva  Sathyam).Sandhya  Vandanam  is  a Yoga  Sadhana for union  of  the  individual  with  Supreme  Reality. Sandhya  Upasana incorporates  the  elements or  features of all the  four main  ingredient   of Yoga, such  as Karma, Bhakthi, Dyana and  Jnana. This  upasana  as such  is devised  to lead  one  to both physical and spiritual advancement.
The Supreme divinity is within oneself. Whatever one intensely thinks or meditate upon that one becomes is the psychological law (Yath Dhyathi Tat Bhavathi)
In  Raksha  Mantra that  comes  in the  end  of  Sandhya  Upasana prayer to the Supreme Lord to bestow  prosperity including  many children, prayer  to remove  the cause  and the  effect of bad dreams, prayer to remove all sins and  to bestow  on us  what is  good  for us are  included.
Present Sandhya   Upasana practices  for  Yajur Vedees  contain the following::- 
1Achamanam  2. Ganapathy  Vandanam  3. Pranayama 4. Sankalpa 5. Jala Prarthana ( selective) 6. Marjanam/Prokshanam 7. Prasanam 8. Punar Marjanam9. Arghya Pradhanam 10. Prayaschitha  Arghyam 11. Atma Pradakshinam12.  Atma Anusandhanam 13. Navagraha/ and  Devatha Tharpanam 14. Brahmarpanam.
Japa parts  consist of  the  following:-
Achamanam 2. Ganapathy Vandanam 3. Sankalpa 4.Pranayamam 4. Gayathri Avahanam 5. Gayathri Japam 6. Gayathri Upasthanam 7. Surya Upasthanam 8. Samasti Abhivadanam 9. Dig Devatha Vandanam 10. Yama Vandanam 11.Harihara Vandanam  12. Suryanarayana  Vandanam 13 Samarpanam 14.  Raksha .

References: Commentary  on Sandhya  vandanam  by   Prof: Sri. Kameswara Iyer- professor of  English  at  Maharaja’s College-Pudukkottai in the year  1898.
Sandhya Vandanam in Malayalam by   Brahmasri P.S.Ramanathan-Disciple of Brahmasri. Sangameswara Sastrigal published in 1985 at Calicut Following Sayana Bashyam. Subham bhavatu.

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