Saturday, July 28, 2012

Glimpses of Kerala in Monsoon

This one is from the archives: Year 2009. this post has received maximum hits-6500 !
On Sunday I took a trip to Palakkad district in Kerala. I drove from Coimbatore to Kozhinjampara, Chittor, Tattamangalam, Kollengode, Payyalore, Kunissery, Chathapuram,Kalpathy & Lakshminarayanapuram. I visited the Brahmin Agraharams in the villages in most of these places. The sky was heavily overcast & it was raining intermittently - in fact Kerala had been lashed by heavy rains for the past two weeks . The journey took me through interior Kerala countryside. There was lush greenery everywhere. One could see abundance of coconut palms, banana plantations, inundated paddy fields, rivers, ponds, paddy birds & glimpses of the Western Ghats (mountains). The atmosphere was exhilirating and energising. The scenery was magnificent & breathtaking. I could not resist the temptation of stopping my car ever so often to inhale the fresh air & take some memorable shots.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Radha Kalyanam

Recently we witnessed a Radha Kalyanam performance at Chennai. "Radha Kalyanam" represents a  symbolic celestial wedding between Lord Krishna and  Radha who is a representation of  Love,Devotion Adoration & Surrender to the Supreme being.The dancer was experienced in this form of dance and had  amazing flexibility,fluidity,charm and grace.He,as Radha, was a virtual maestro and his expressions reveal his complete devotion to Lord Krishna. Some of the pics during this enthralling performance are presented below.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Upanayanam or Sacred Thread Ceremoney - Part 2

This is continuation of the previous post. This post is about the happenings on day two when the actual Upanayanam takes place and my niece's son Yash gets to wear his Yajnopavitham or Sacred Thread and enters Brahmacharyam:

Beginning of Day 2 - starting with a prayer
The mama (uncle) smearing kumkumam and chandanam (sandalwood paste) on the boy's forehead
The boy being garlanded by the mama
The boy is now ready to be initiated
Aajyabhaagaantha is a prayer to the God of Fire, Agni for the child's long life, intellect, courage
Boy reciting the  Mantras - above & below
Yagnopaveetha Dharanam...The father places the sacred thread across the child's left shoulder under the advice of  the Head Priest. The sacred thread consists of three strands signifying Brahmma, Vishnu, and Shiva. 
The young boy is now wearing his Yajnopavitham or Sacred Thread
Boy posing for a photo with his newly acquired "Yajnopavitham"
Kumara Bhojanam - The boy is fed along with one or two other Brahmachari, a symbol that he too has now become a Brahmachari
Next  a girdle made out the mooja grass (dharbai grass) is tied around the waist of the child. This is to protect his purity and to keep evils away.
Boy carried by his proud and beaming father - all are very happy
The Twig in the right hand.. .. a small stick of peepal tree with green leaves signifies his entry into Brahmmacharya. The Gods Brahmma, Vishnu and Rudra - all the three Gods reside in the peepal tree is a belief and thus the boy  receives the grace from the three Gods and also from the Goddesses Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga.
Boy washing his fathers feet thus accepting him as a Guru
Brammopadesam...The Gayatri mantra is a supreme mantra and protects those who recite it. The boy's father becomes his GURU and whispers into his ears this powerful Gayatri mantra.

The Gayatri Mantra has been chronicled in the Rig Veda, which was written in Sanskrit about 2500 to 3500 years ago, and the mantra may have been chanted for many centuries before that. The ancient Hindu scriptures describe how the sage Vishwamitra was given the Gayatri mantra by the Supreme Being as a reward for his many years of deep penance and meditation.  This was to be a gift for all humanity.

No photographs are available of the following rituals which also form an important part of the Sacred Thread Ceremony: 

1.Soorya Dharshan...The boy to be taken outside and shown the Surya, the sun god. This assumption here is that he will be protected by Surya. The palms are clasped in such a way that it makes a peep hole to the Sun God.
  2. Bhikshakaranam...The boy symbolically asks for alms of rice from his mother and other married women. This is an important event and is done to make one humble, polite, and egoless. Also this makes the young boy to control his senses, which is absolutely essential for receiving Vedic knowledge.
 3. Abhivathanam..After upanayanam, the boy seeks the blessings of the all the elders present by saluting them on their feet with shashtanga namaskar. During this this abhivathanam, the boy introduces himself by his rishi, parampara, gothram, suthram and name step by step.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Upanayanam or Sacred Thread Ceremony - Part 1

Upanayanam, also known as the sacred thread ceremony. is usually performed for Brahmin boys at the age of seven or eight because that is the age when a boy stops getting the benefits of the karmas of his parents and will have to learn and perform his own karmas. The concept of "Brahman" is introduced to a young boy. The youngster is taught the secret of life through Brahmopadesam (revealing the nature of Brahman or the ultimate reality) or the Gayatri Mantra. The boy gets to wear a Yajnopavitam or sacred thread on his body. The Sacred thread has three strands each representing Goddesses Gayatri (Goddess of mind), Saraswati (Goddess of word) & Savitri (Goddess of deed).
I recently attended the Upanayanam ceremoney of my niece's son Yash at Chennai. In fact there are some religious rites that were performed the day before the actual Upanayanam. These are termed Nandi Sraddham and Uttakashanthi ceremony. The Uttakashanthi which is done for purification of mind and body and for the protection of the child. Names of the deities are chanted in the form of mantras and invoked in water which is then poured over the child. Next is the Nandi Sraddham which is basically performed to propitiate and obtain blessings of the family ancestors.During this ceremony at least 9 Brahmanas (priestly class) are invited,served food and their blessings obtained by the family.  Pictures taken on the preceding day are posted below:
The boy seated between the head priest (left) and his father (right)
Uttakashanthi: Pouring of holy water over the boy's head
Thol Thukkal - The boys uncle carrying boy on his shoulder
Pre-soaked navadhanyams or amalgamation of nine different grains kept in 5 mud pots
Pouring of milk and water on mud pots containing Navadhanyams - This is done for the prosperity and healthy growth of the boy
Boy's father tying kapu (yellow thread) to boy's wrist to protect him from evil spirits
Boy and parents doing sashtanga namaskarams  - fully prostrating and seeking the blessings of the Brahmanas (vedic scholars)
Boys father & mother washing the Brahmanas feet
Boy's father presenting gifts to the Brahmanas (vedic scholars)
The boy's father spreading his "anga vastram" (body cloth) to receive rice offerings from the Brahmanas
Closeup view of the menu served to the Brahmanas
Brahmanas being served food on plantain leaves-all of them wearing the Yajnopavitham

Pictures taken during the Upanayanam on day 2 will follow in the next post.


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