Some questions on Avani Avittam

In this post, I am raising some questions about this important ritual for Brahmins and it is my intention to find the answers as well.  If you have any responses, please share them with others in the comments field.

1. Why this upakarma?

2. Yajurveda upakarma is popularly known as Avani avittam and sama veda upakarma normally falls on vinayagar chaturthi.  What about Rig veda and Atharvana veda upakarmas?

3.  What is the significance of Avani Avittam combination (month and nakshatiram) for Yajurveda upakarma?

4.  Today is Aadi Avittam and yet Yajurveda upakarma is performed.  How come?

5.  There are different kinds of sacred threads “poonals” viz single, double and triple strands.  What is the difference?

6.  During Yajurveda upakarma we perform different “tharpanam”.  What is the reason for doing them together in public?

7.  What is the significance of repeating “kamokarishith manyuthakarishith” 108 times during upakarma?

8.  Was upakarma always meant to be samashti (in groups) or was it more for convenience?

Looking forward to knowing more on these lines!!

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9 Comments

  1. jey said,

    August 1, 2012 at 6:49 am

    1. Upakarma is to signify the beginning of a new session and a new course during the Gurukula days of yore.

    2. Sama veda upakarma follows the preeminece of hasta nakshatram. Rig vedis observe their upakarma on the same day as Yajur vedis. Since there are fewer rig vediks around south and even fewer atharvana vedis (a few left only in kerala in the south) in tamilnaud we don’t see or hear much about their practices.

    4. This year the peculiar occurrence of 2 amavasyas in the same lunar month has created certain variances in the normal and routine observations.

    5. They signify the Brahmachari (single), the grahastha (double) and the third is optional – depending upon family custom practices (at the time of becoming a father)

    6 & 8. Samashti and public are modern day adaptations (mutations) of erstwhile practices for convenience, and because of lack of enough preceptor practitioners to do it in smaller groups of vidyarthis in a gurukula or in a conventional joint family system or a smaller commune rather than the mixed performance as being observed today. Thank God atleat this much is still being observed.

    • badrirag said,

      August 1, 2012 at 7:50 am

      Jeyaram,

      Thanks for sharing your responses to the questions.

      Badri

  2. GWW said,

    August 1, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Dear Badri,

    Initially (at least according to our preceptor Sundararajan Iyengar, who used to live at Saidapet managing Purohitam and an electricals business, but who has now long settled at Srirangam and is nearing 90 now), I thought Kamokarshith and Manyurakarshith meant “I’ll give up desire and I’ll give up anger” respectively. But I found a more interesting and perhaps accurate explanation on the web for it, as an answer to your question #7 (http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/sri-vaishnava-forum/131310-questions-upakarma.html). Regards, (you know who this is :-))

    • badrirag said,

      August 1, 2012 at 10:07 am

      When I was a kid, I knew one GWW (Ghost who walks) in the name of Phantom. Request you to share your identity by email. Thanks for your inputs and for sharing the link for qn no 7.

      Badri

      • GWW said,

        August 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

        This is not the Ghost Who Walks but the Ghost Who Writes (now you have no doubts as to who this is!)

  3. badrirag said,

    August 1, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I had sent this post to a few friends and one of them PB Balaji had these questions circulated and shared the response he got from his Chitiya Shri PB Sampath as below:

    Thank you Balaji for taking the initiative of asking around and then sharing the same with me. Thank you Sampath sir

    ————————————————————————————-

    (1) This upa karma is a kind of act to rectify the deficiencies if any in the regular karmas during the year

    (2) Rig Vedics do it tomorrow; to my knowledge generally there are no atharvana vedics nor I know when they do it

    (3) & (4) It is supposed to be on pournami tithi; while normally in the month of Avani, I will have to find out why this time in Aadi itself

    (5) Poonool is always of 3 strands with one Brahma mudichu – symbolic of constant reminder of Brahman in 3 aspects – mano, vaak and kayam – mind, speech and body

    (6) & (8) There is no specific requirement to do in public or in groups – such practice is a requirement of practical convnience only

    (7) Kama: Akarshith means ‘Desire made me do undesirable things’. Manyu: Akarshith means Ánger made me do undesirable things. We say Öut of desire and anger I did undesirable things; Lord Narayana”! please forgive

    Answer to the best of my ability. If I can find more I shall come back

    Sampath

  4. Srikrishnan.R said,

    August 2, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Dear Badri Sir,
    Upakarma (Avani Avittam):
    Nature and Purpose
    Upakarma (/upaakarma/) means beginning or “Arambham”, i.e. to begin the study of the Veda (Veda Adhyayanam). For example, Yajur Upakarma means to begin the study of the Yajur Veda. Those belonging to the Yajur Veda observe the Upakarma in the month of Sravana (August-September), on the day of the full moon (paurnami). Why begin study of the Vedas on this particular day? This auspicious day also happens to be the day when Lord Narayana took the avatara as Lord Hayagriva. Lord Hayagriva as we all know restored the Vedas to Brahma and also is the God of Knowledge.
    The next question is: why do this every year? In the not too distant a past, Veda Adhyayanam was performed only during the period Avani to Tai (from mid-August to mid-January). Therefore, one is supposed to perform an “utsarjanam” in the month of Tai, i.e., a giving up of the learning of Vedas from Tai to Avani. Just like a Upakarma function there was a Utsarjana function in Tai. The period between January to August was then devoted to learning other branches of our shastras. Thus the cycle of Upakarma and Utsarjana with regard to Vedic studies was established. However, this method took 12 or more years to learn just one veda. Slowly this became impractical and Vedic studies continued throughout the year.
    Therefore, the first thing to do before the Upakarma function is to do a praayaschitta (atonement) for having learned Vedas during the prohibited period. Specifically, one atones for not having performed the Utsarjanam in the month of Tai. That’s why we begin the function by doing the “kAmo’karshIt…” japam. The purpose is declared as “adhyAya-utsarjana-akarana-prAyaScittArtham..” (to atone for not doing the utsarjana of Vedic study) and the sankalpam continues as “…ashTottara-sahasra-sankhyayA kAmo’karshIt manyur akArshIt mahA-mantra-japam karishye” (I will now do recite the great “kAmo’kArshIt” mantra 1008 times). The meaning in Tamil is “kAmaththAl seyya pattadhu, kOpaththAl seyya pattadhu” — done out of desire, done out of anger. The correct way of chanting this mantra is “kAmo’karshIt manyur akArshIt”. Don’t add namo nama: etc. The right time to perform is immediately after your morning anushthanam like sandhya, samidaadaanam (if you are a brahmachari), brahma-yajnam etc. This is performed during the abhigamana kaalam. Because it is done after samithadanam, the change of poonool is needed for brahmacharis before samithadhanam ritual. Brahmacharis are supposed to have a hair-cut (prefarably by a man!) after this. For grahasthas, there is no samithadhanam and there is no need for change of poonool. But to do Kanda rishi tharpanam, you need to change the poonool. Hence thathangam snanam, thathangam yagnyopaveedam, etc.
    The Kanda Rishis and their Significance
    We saw that the “kAmo’karshIt manyur akArshIt” japam is done with a sense of contrition. Who else but Vasudeva can bear the burden of our acts of omissions and commissions with regard to shastras? SAstramayena sthira pradIpena — Daya Devi (compassion of the Lord personified) lights the lamp of shastras so that the jiva can find its way to its home in the Absolute.
    After the kamo’karsheeth japam, we proceed to perform the Upakarma function. It is done after mAdhyAhnikam and bhagavad-ArAdhanam (ijyA). The main purpose of the Upakarma function is to offer prayers and express our gratitude to those rishis who gave us the Vedas — the rishis through whom the Vedic mantras were revealed. These rishis are known as “kaanda rishis”. There are different rishis for the different Vedas. We are expected to worship those rishis who belong to our shakha or branch of the Veda, one of Yajur, Rk, Samam etc. The Yajur Veda consists of 4 kaandams. These are known as
    1. prAjApatya kaaNDam
    2. saumya kaaNDam
    3. Agneya kaaNDam and
    4. vaishvadeva kaaNDam.
    These kaandams are named after those rishis who first taught the Vedas, viz., Prajapati, Soma, Agni and Vishvadeva. Subsequently we also offer our prayers to the Upanishads saamhiti, yaajniki, and vaaruni, and finally to Svayambhu and Sadasaspati, through whom the Yajur Veda came down to us.
    The sankalpam is mainly taken for performing the Upakarma Homam. Then we say tad angam snAnam karishye, tad angam yajnopavIta-dhAraNam karishye, tad angam kANDarshi tarpaNam karishye — which implies that all other activities like snaanam, yajnopaveeta dhaaranam, tarpanam etc., are only performed as an ‘angam’ or subsidiary to the Upakarma Homam (which is the angi or primary).
    In the Upakarma Homam as well as in the tarpanam, the offerings are made to the kaanda rishis. In fact this tarpanam is so important that it is included as part of our nitya karma-anushthaanam, our daily worship. There are other minor points that are worth noting:
    1. Brahmacharis should wear maunji (belt made of sacred grass), ajinam (deerskin) and dandam (stick made of palaasa wood) after they wear the poonool (sacred thread). There are separate mantras for each.
    2. It is said that: purAtanAn parityajya which implies that you should wear a new set of clothes (veshti and uttarIyam) before the tarpanam and homam.
    3. It is also said that: kAndarshi tarpaNa-kAle punaH snAtvA Ardra vastra eva tat kuryAt, i.e, before performing the kaanda rishi tarpanam you should once again take a dip in the water and do it with wet clothes.
    4. The rishi tarpanam is done with the poonool in the nivita position (like a garland) and the water along with rice and sesame seeds should leave the root of the small finger.
    5. In some traditions you fast on the Upakarma day or at least fast till the end.
    6. In some traditions a general pitr tarpanam is also done.

  5. Govind said,

    August 3, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Great Knowing – thanks, Badri and greater thanks to SriKrishnan.R


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