[Advaita-l] Re: Saagnikam Athiraathram 2006

Abhishek RK rkabhi at gmail.com
Thu Nov 3 10:57:29 CST 2005

While we are discussing yaagas could the learned members elaborate on this
Yaagam? Are any of the members of this list attending this event?

Saagnikam Athiraathram - A Brief History

by Hari Narayanan

The Indian culture is one that is being respectfully viewed by the entire
world. The Indian knowledge, both scientific and spiritual, has its
exhaustive collection in the Vedas. Literally, the word Veda has evolved
from its root word Vid, which in Sanskrit means knowledge. 'The Vedas make
one realize anything including those that can't be realized by a presence or
a hypothesis' is the definition of the Vedas.

While the Indian myth considers Vedas as ever existing, modern historians
opine varyingly on its evolution. Analysing their views, it is quite clear
that the Vedas had evolved much before 1500 BC, in a period now known as the
Vedic era.

Yajna (yaga) has been the vital mode of devotion in the Vedic era. More than
being a custom, Yajna symbolises the life and society of that era, the
qualities of which ought to be practised now. These facts throw light on the
idea that the Yajna culture is essentially the Indian culture.

'Yajnovai shreshthathamam karmam' (Sathapatha Brahmanam 1-1-57) means: Yajna
is the noblest deed in this world. The Yajamana (master) of the Yajna,
performs it with an intention of sacrificing the worldly thoughts of his
self, and aiming at harmony. A Yajna conveys the idea of magnanimity to a
common man. From a higher perspective, ones life as such may be viewed as a
Yajna, where he himself is the Yajamana, trying to perform it successfully
for good.

'Panchajanaa Mamahothram Jushadhwam' (Rigveda), by its meaning, invites us
to come along together, irrespective of our creed, caste or gender, to
perform this observance. Only then, will this be fruitful, and only then,
will this be complete.

Yajnas are of a variety, including Vaidika, Thanthrika, Bhagavatha and much
more. While all of these are important in certain respects, the one closest
to our lifestyle is the Vaidikayajna. The Vaidikayajna itself has its
versions as Panchayajna,Haviryajna, Pashuryajna and Somayajna, of which the
Somayajna/Somayaga is the vital most.

The major offerings to the sacrificial fire of Somayaga are made with
Somarasa - that divine nectar squeezed off Somalatha. The Somalatha, a
creeper plant, is symbolically looked on to as the worldly thoughts and
tensions of a human being, since both are diverse, entangled and wide
spread. The Somarasa is obtained by crushing the vines of Somalatha as is
the case of obtaining that eternal exhilaration after crushing ones thoughts
and tensions. The might of this very concept is sufficient to make the
Somayaga superior to the others of its kind.

Somayaga is again divided into seven based on its length and pattern of
execution. They are - Agnishtomam, Athyagnishtomam, Ukthyam, Shodashi,
Vajapeyam, Athirathram and Apthoryamam. According to Keralite custom, only
two, viz., the six-day long Agnishtomam and the twelve-day long Athirathram
prevail here. Only a Somayaji - Yajamana of a previous Agnishtoma - deserves
to perform an Athirathra, which hence is something extraordinary.

Though it is commonly called Athirathra or Agni, for completion, it has to
be said Saagnikamathiraathram. Saagnika means 'along with Agni'. The 'Agni'
here, denotes the five-layered brickwork - the Yajnavedi, where the major
offerings of Athirathra are being made. The Yajnavedi is also known as Citi
or Chayana. The Somayaga may also be performed without the Agni(Citi). The
Keralite tradition insists Agni for an Athirathra, while an Agnishtomam is
performed without it. The Citis mentioned are of different classes, viz.,
Shyena, Praugha, Udayapraugha, Drona, Ratha, Shmashana and Koorma. Each of
them is yet divided into types. Among them, the Shyenaciti, shaped as a kite
(Garuda roopa) that has its types as Panchpatrika, Shadpatrika, Peethan,
etc. is being used in Kerala. The usage of a particular Citi presents a
certain result, that of the Shyenaciti being the Heavens.

In a Yajna, seventeen Vedic scholars known as the Rithwiks perform together
under the Yajamana to prosper the world. They involve four Mahadrithwiks
representing the four Vedas. The Hota represents Rigveda, the Adhwaryu
Yajurveda, the Udgatha Samaveda and the Brahma Atharvaveda. Three Rithwiks
assist each of these four Mahadrithwiks. In addition, there is a Sadasya,
monitoring the proceedings, and hence, making it a sum of seventeen
Rithwiks. In the initial stages of a Yajna, the Yajamana, along with the
seventeen Rithwiks pledge to perform sole heartedly for the coming days.
This oath taking known as the 'touching of Thaanoonapthram' brings a divine
unity into their souls. Henceforth, the seventeen Rithwiks are being treated
as the ten senses, the Panchaprana, the heart and the brain of the Yajamana.
Controlling the Rithwiks establishes the ability of the Yajamana to control
his Panchapranamanobuddhidashendriya (the above said seventeen).

Of the twelve days involved in Athirathra, the first three are known as
Deekshaahas, when the materials for the Yajna are collected and the Rithwiks
get accepted by the Yajamana. It is the same time during which the Yajamana
prepares himself for this noble venture. The preparation involves strict and
careful observation of austerities by the Yajamana, known as Deeksha.
Moreover, the Yajamana has to mentally get prepared for the performance of
Athirathra. For this, is done the Pravargya, in which milk of cow and goat
is added to a pot full of boiling ghee. The ghee then inflames and rises as
fireballs into the atmosphere. The Yajamana gets mentally lofted and mighty
after Pravargya, as is visualised by ghee and milk. The first layer of the
five-layered Citi mentioned before is set up on the fourth day. Each layer
is added on in the coming days and the Citi gets completed on the eighth

The sacrificial fire is prepared atop the Citi on the ninth day of
Athirathra. On the same day, the Somalatha is brought to Havirdhaanam - the
place where it gets crushed into Somarasa. On from the tenth day, start the
offerings to Agni along with the Somahutis and Sthuthi-Shasthras. Thereafter
begin the continuous ceremonies at the end of which the Yagasala is set to

More than being a human congregation, the Yajna symbolises the immense
regard and co-operation that man and nature should possess to each other.
Many proceedings can be viewed at a Yagasala that involve human and animal
partnership. For instance, the clay of which the pots are made is brought on
donkeys. Horses peg up the clay mixed with water. The Somalatha is brought
to the Yagasala in bullock-carts. Also, it is said that the
Krishna-yajurvedam that details on the performance of a Yajna has evolved
from Thiththiri (a kind of partridge). Krishna-yajurvedam has thus obtained
the name Thaiththiriyam. Moreover, the utensils, the Yagasala, etc. are made
exclusively of mud and timber. These facts thus stress on the co-operation
between man and nature, which ultimately leads to the betterment of the
place where we live in. The success of this very life may indeed be termed
the Heaven.

In Indian Yajna culture, the Keralite tradition has its own existence. The
truth and morality involved in the proceedings here are renowned to be rare.
This may be an opinion that many may be reluctant to agree upon. However,
the fact that veteran foreign researchers in the subject like Prof. Frits
Stall and Prof. Purpola, come in search of Kerala can't be denied. It was
with their aids that the Paanjaal Athirathra (1975) became a success.

The Yagasala of Athirathra can be regarded as a theatre where the Yaga is a
play, played by the Yajamana and the Rithwiks. The Keralite system may be
the only existing one, where the participant by heart their deeds and
perform them alone, without any external help. Hence, this Keralite Yajna
culture stands much closer to a theatre art form. The Mantra recital
practised here involves immense power and energy. Many among them have to be
recited in single breath, and if erred, have to be repeated. That too, the
performer himself has to identify the error. The Rigveda, Samaveda and
Yajurveda, recited in different tones and notes, entertains any enjoyer with
a musical experience. And then, the Athirathra proves to be a divine form of
art too.

Kerala has ever given birth to many Shrautha Pandithas. Among them, the
modern Shrautha culture considers Earkkara Raman Namboothiri and
C.V.Somayajippad as maestros, under whose guidance; the Paanjaal Athirathra
went on to a success. The present generation of Shrautha Pandithas mostly
involve their disciples. Among today's masters, are Vaidikan Thaikkattu
Neelakanthan Namboothiri and his brother Kesavan Namboothiri, who along with
Bhatty Puthillathu Ravi Akkithiripadu, Narayanamangalatu Narayanan
Namboothiri and Kavapra Marathu Sankaranarayanan Namboothiri, played lead
roles in the Kundoor Athirathra(1990). All of them, even over aged, are yet
lively in the field. Thanks to their ardent desire and devotion. Under such
circumstances, only an Athirathram performed can help out in carving a new
generation with such talent. Identifying its need and inevitability, Shri.
P.N.C.Menon(Chairman, Shobha Developers & Group, Bangalore), has come
forward declaring financial support for the upcoming Athirathra, to be
staged in the holy premises Sreekurumba Bhagavathy temple at Kizhakkanchery
in Palakkad district, from March 29th, 2006. The Thrissur Vaidika Vidya
Peetham, renowned institution for maintaining and developing Vaidika -
Shrautha culture, organises the millennium's first ever Athirathra.

Heaven and Hell are right in this world. We are the ones who make it so. By
this united, unique and noble venture, we shall turn this world to Heaven.
With selfless co-operation and hearty commitment, let us be Rithwiks in this
Yajna, to build peace and prosperity in the world. Come along, hesitate not,
this is the timeā€¦
On 10/17/05, Abhishek RK <rkabhi at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >
> > Saagnikam Athiraathram 2006
> >
> > Performed by: Vaidika Vidya Peedham, Thrissur, Kerala
> >
> > Supported by: Sri. P.N.C.Menon, Sobha Developers and Group Companies,
> >
> > Date: 29th March, 2006 onwards
> >
> > Venue: The holy premises of Sree Kurumba Bhagavathy Temple,
Kizhakkanchery, Palakkad, Kerala
> >
> > http://www.athiraathram.org/
> >
> > --
> > bhava Sankara deSika me saraNam
> >
> > sadASiva samArambham SankaracArya madhymam
> > asmadAcArya paryantam vande guru paramparam

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