Life is beautiful again.
The vacations, however short, have started. I am at my parents’, being pampered, and coddled no end. No competition from either sibling or offspring. Just beautiful.
However, I have realized I have been lax. All work and no time to read has made Ushus a sadly lonely blogger :P! The last two posts have recorded zilch comments. Hmmmm….. time to perk up, she has realized. And time to get her head checked as well. Imagine, she’s started talking of herself in the third person. She always thought she would have MPD; perhaps this is the beginning :D!
*Ushus reverts back, ego in place* 😛 Ooops… that was a psychic slip. Pls to ignore. 😆
Alright. I have a Sun Child, about whom I have written here and here and … and here I go again :D! It’s time to sing him his birthday song, even if he’s on the high seas sailing in some direction off the coast, and busy practising taking pot shots, both literal and figurative 🙂 He continues to worry me, give me such joy I never thought was possible, make me so seethingly angry, that I always knew he would, and continues to surprise me with his sheer goodness, and …. 🙂 Pssssttt…. it’s a secret that I shall share in a few weeks’ time. Lol! Another year notched up for him, but another year taken off from mine, I always say… and so it is with this one too!
Happy Birthday, my dearest Arjun… may all the colours of the rainbow shine bright and be yours, making up for each thunderstorm that comes your way. 🙂 May each of those thunderstorms, just be passing showers that you indulge yourself in, and splash about, in joy 🙂 May you be blessed with health, and happiness, and the all elusive elixir of life, peace of mind! Love you… always! (Mushy and gooey enough I think!)
That was the Sun Child.
The Sun, is sure warm these days, but it is also the life giving force as we know it. And so it came to be that I found myself enthralled, and spent the whole of today visiting and reading up on the element of fire, that emanates from this very Sun we worship, no matter what faith we observe in our lives.
I had been to Paanjaal (പാഞ്ഞാല്) in Thrissur District of Kerala, where an aeons old vedic ritual is taking place, the Athiraathram (അതിരാത്രം) – The experience was like none other. It would be rather unkind and in a way totally unethical 🙂 on my part to even try and explain what it is all about, for a simple reason. I have yet to understand even a fraction of it. What it lent however, was a window to a universe of our heritage. It has nothing absolutely to do with any kind of faith, but it has everything to do with heritage. We call India the land of knowledge; the place where even aerodynamics, or in vitro fertilization took its roots, in the Vedas and the Sruthis, and the Scriptures. You get a taste of that, in the Athiraathram.
Simply put, the Athiraathram ( literally meaning a ritual that is continues over the night… most often without a break) is a yajnam (യജ്ഞം) a vedic ritual, the oldest surviving one, in which vedas are chanted and certain rituals are performed over 12 days, by a set of vedic scholars, who have spent their entire lives practising and chanting these mantras, for the sake of the welfare of mankind. Mankind everywhere. It is the process of ensuring the simple tattva: “Lokah Samasthah Sukhino Bhavantu” – Let there be peace and goodwill all over the EArth. The process however is like explaining, perhaps, the complexities of Rocket Science to a layperson (as a FB friend Harish Varma puts it 🙂 ) who has not been to school, and knows very little about it.
But with the little that I had managed to read, after googling, and speaking to a parent of a student who I happened to meet, this is what I discovered. (Links are given at the end, for videos, the official website, where there is awealth of information, and other links)
This vedic ritual takes much preparation, both in terms of human resource and also material resource as all the requirement is to be met with authentic material, be it herbs, wood, clay, sand, measurement of bricks or whatever. It was performed way back in the 50s here in Kerala, after which, due to financial constraints, the Namboothiri community (among who the vedic scholars are found usually) could not conduct it by themselves. So they later allowed funding by Scholars from abroad, who wanted permission to research into, and take both photographic evidence, and films and videos as well.
The team was led by Dr. Frits Staal, of the University of Berkely.
(The book that came as a result of that research- AGNI. The Vedic Ritual of the Fire Altar in cooperation with C.V.Somayajipad and M. Itti Ravi Nambudiri Photographs by Adelaide deMenil Vols. I-II. Berkeley 1983. )
36 years later, in that same spot, the Yajnam is going on. From 4 April to 15 April 2011, nature will be propitiated (not Gods, and even if these be Gods, these are representative of different forms of Nature itself) and requested to bless mankind. The elaborate rituals and the meaning of each and every ceremony, right from finding the perfect sport where the sun’s energy can be tapped to the maximum (Paanjaal is such a place, that is why the yajnam this time has returned here) are documented in their official website.
The homas, or the offerings made to fire… the fire which is the basis of everything that happens in the Athiraathram, which is churned literally from two pieces of wood, called the “Arani”… are mainly performed on a bird shaped platform… supposedly in the form of Garuda, the eagle, called the Chchitthi. The Syenachitti. It comprises five layers and each layer is laid out to the chanting of the vedic mantras, each placed just so. Just right. The bricks are specially made, and there is a special number of these that is required. It would look like this…
The picture on top is a model of what the full, completed platform would look like. The picture below it shows you the break up and shapes that form the larger bird structure.
There are 5 layers to the completed platform. The final homas are done on the raised platform. And on the final day, after the agni is returned to the Arani (I think, am not sure… 🙂 ), the entire Yaagashaala (the thatched enclosures) are set fire. And then, unfailingly, it rains. It pours. Even when not a speck of a cloud was seen minutes before in the sky. It isn’t a miracle. It is what is meant to be. It is what the Vedas say. If the processes take place in the manner they should, this will happen. Very matter-of-fact. Period. 🙂
I had taken a few very amateurish pics… and here they are. A video too, which I shall upload on Youtube and share here. Do please go through the website and other places for information. It may sound terribly geekish and nerdish and totally incomprehensible, but it is worth a peek 🙂
My youtube video link : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I39unVoRc3Q
The official website: http://athirathram2011.com/
The video- an official documentary of sorts, in Malayalam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkDeYdN8UuY
Sandeep Varma’s blog: He’s been updating each and every day’s happenings, and has some wonderful pictures.
His post on the Garuda platform, the chiththi is awesome.
On Facebook, here it is: athiraathram and,
And here are a few pictures I had taken 🙂
That is my mother in the centre, her youngest sister on her left, and our neighbour to her right. In the background, the yaagashaala.
A view of the field at Paanjaal, where the Athiraathram is being held.
The Chchiththi being laid out.
Just these for now. Am so exhausted 🙂 Still it is worth the while just to have been able to share this (and bore you to death, perhaps 🙂 ). I am certain that I have not got anything of substance here, but what I gained in some infinitesimal measure, I know Ihave put in here 🙂 The fact that you could not have grasped that (being infinitesimal, of course), is another matter altogether!
Have a Happy Vishu, too, everyone, on 15th.
Lokah Samasthaa Sukhino Bhavantu 🙂
11 April, 2011