This post is a continuation of the series "India Trip". I have written this post over a period of several weeks so if there is any discontinuity in the flow of things or any change of style and language please bear with me.Turning 60 is a social-religious event in India, especially in South India. When a man or woman turns 60 a sacred Vedic celebration called Shashtiabdapoorthi is performed - shashti meaning 60 years, abdam the year and poorthi signifying the completion of 60 years in a person’s lifetime. Rituals and mantras mark the event and a ‘remarriage’ of the couple is performed.According to the Vedas, at 60 a man has reached the halfway mark of his actual span of life, which is 120 years. And according to Hindu numerology, six is not a favourable number and 60 is a point in life when the ruling planet of a person may have an adverse effect on his life. The person performs a religious shanti, mainly to invoke peace, ensure good health, and longevity. There is a similar ceremony, too, when a woman turns 60.
edited from: http://www.globaladjustments.com/nlfeb04.html#topVeda Parayanam
At about 7.15 am on Monday morning the chief vadyar along with an assistant arrived to start the Veda Parayanam. The stage had already been set prior to his arrival. Two manai's (wooden seating) had already been laid - one for appa and one for amma. A nice kolam had been drawn in front of it. All the items from the list the vadyar had given a few days earlier had been bought and kept. All the money to be given during the ceremony had been sealed in envelopes and labelled for easy disposition.
The first thing he did was place bricks to create a platform for the avapasanakal. Then he created another platform with rice for keeping the kodam. He asked for a few more things and set it beside himself. Then he and his assistant started telling mantras with my dad repeating after him. In the process they placed a kodam on the rice platform and wrapped the kodam with vastram. Then it was time for filling the kodam with water. This ritual is to be done by two ladies and my mom and sis shared the responsibility. In the mean time, the other vadyars were arriving.
I have always heard that there is a particular significance to every act that is performed during any ritual. This time I wanted to find out a few of them. What I found I have tried to summarize under the title - Significance. Please excuse me if this interrupts the flow.Significance: The kodam that is placed on the rice is like God Himself. The rice platform acts like a throne for him. The wrapping of the kodam with a vastram, thus, signifies the clothing of Him. The water that is held in the kodam is very holy for the same reason.
After all the vadyars, around 8 of them, had arrived the chief vadyar brought them together and divided the responsibility of the chanting of vedas between them. 2 people formed a group and they were to chant one portion of the vedas. As soon as the work was divided, each group occupied a particular part of the living room and started chanting. During the chanting my dad was also sitting on the manai and holding a darbai in his hand. One end of the darbai was in my dad's hand and the other was touching the kodam.
The house was filled with the melody of the vedas and I just cannot explain the bliss I felt at the sound of the beautiful hymns. I did not understand the meaning nor was it sung to a particular raga or tune but there was a particular melody in it that livened all my senses and I was feeling ecstatic.Significance: The darbai held by my dad is touching the kodam. The idea here is that the power of the vedas which is being chanted is being transferred through this connection to the water in the kodam. As a result of this the water in the kodam is becoming very powerful and holy.8 people were called upon to chant the vedas. There is also an order to this. It is not possible to randomly divide work. If I remember right, there is what are called Kandas or Chapters and each group is assigned a few Kandas. The last Kanda is recited together. It usually takes a few hours to recite one Kanda and since we had to finish the chanting in 1 day the division of labour is necessary. If a single person were to chant the veda all by himself Chapter after Chapter then it would take 2 - 3 days for reciting the entire Vedas. So the Vadyar count is based on how many days you want to have Veda Parayanam.
We placed some krambu and kalkund next to each group. The vadyar's used to chew on these to keep their mouth from becoming dry.
At around 11.00 am, the group stopped for lunch. After lunch, a small siesta and "Adigirar Kannan", they resumed chanting at around 1.00 pm. They were soon done with the chanting at around 2.30 pm. Now it was time to shower the holy water in the kodam on my parents. So, accordingly, the manai's were moved outside and my parents took their seats on it. Then my thatha's and the chief vadyar poured the water from the kodam onto my parents.Significance: The water collected in the kodam has been now strengthened by the vedas and is even more holy, powerful and all healing. So by showering it onto my parents it is like transferring the power and strength to them. A little water is left behind for others too.
With this the morning session is over.Shanthi Homam
The homam started at 6.00 pm. Once again the kodam was placed on the rice platform and clothed. Then water was poured into it. This time this was done by my aunt and patti. There were only 4- 5 vadyars this time and they began chanting mantras with my dad repeating after them or atleast trying to repeat after them.
This session has to be done before the main event, which was conducted the next day. It could have been done early the next day before the main event but that means starting as early as 5.30 - 6.00. So, for the sake of convenience it was done the previous evening.Muhurtham 7.30 a.m - 9.00 a.mNalangu:
At about 5.45 a.m my Aunt arrived at home to do Nalangu for my parents. She applied chandanam and kumkum paste on the legs and then kept oil on the head.
The Chief Vadyar arrived around 7.00 am to begin the morning festivities. This time the kodam from the previous nite was already in place and he soon started the homam along with his other assistants. This time there were about 6 of them. It was once again a wonderful sight to see all the vadyars neatly sitting around the homam and chanting their slokas in unison and pouring the ghee into the holy fire with their swahas.
After a while, it was time for showering the water in the kodam on my parents again. So, just like the previous evening, my parents sat on their manai's and my thatha's and the vadyar showered them with the water. Once this was over, my parents went on to change and my mom had to wear the nine yards saree that had been bought by her parents ie. my thatha and patti.
Once they returned, there was more homam and japam. Some of the events that followed were very similar to that conducted the previous day but there were a few other things that were new. What I have written below is the other new and interesting things that followed.Kannadi la pakardhu:
This is a ritual which is done to remove drishti. In this ritual, both appa and amma held a mirror, presented by the vadyar, together and saw themselves in it. Once done, the kannadi is offered to a Brahman.Yennai la pakardhu:
This is yet another ritual similar to kannadi la pakkardhu for removing drishti. In this, once again, my appa and amma saw themselves in a small vannai that had yennai in it. Here again, the yennai is offered to a Brahman.Nava danyam:
This, I think, is also for dhrishti. In this, each graham of navagraha is prayed upon and then a danyam or offering is done for each graham. Each graham has a respective color associated with it and also there are specifications as to what to offer each graham, like yellu, rice, etc etc. So before the onset of this ritual, the danyams, along with a small monetary token, are placed on the colored cloth representing each graham. Then prayers and slokas are chanted and then the cloth along with the danyam is offered to a Brahman.Significance: When each of the items that I mentioned above are offered to a Brahman, it signifies that you are transferring the dhristi on to that Brahman. The Brahman then rids himself of this extra dhristi by doing puja, prayers etc. So, typically some of the vadyar's assistants who live by chanting vedas or doing pujas accept the offering. This is because, since they are in touch with God everday they can get rid of the dhristi faster. But, here again, there are certain grahams that most Brahmans will not accept. I dont remember exactly, but I think it is Shaneeshwara Bhagavan, whose danyam most Brahmans refuse to accept. This is because it has more Shakthi and so more dhrishti transfer. Also, in order to appease such grahams and make the acceptance by the Brahman more favorable, the monetary tokens placed on the danyam to such grahams is more.Mangalya Dhanam:
This is the main event of the day, where Appa tied the Managalyam to Amma. I was very excited and happy to see the marriage of my own parents. It was really a thrilling and amazing moment that I will never forget. As usual, the third knot was tied by the Nathanar.Something I learned was that, Mangalya Dhanam is of little significance in the marriage ritual. Though it is believed that once Mangalya Dhanam is over, then the man and woman are husband wife, it is not really true. The tying of the Mangalyam is only a small step in pronouncing the man and woman husband wife. This is why, typically, when the Mangalya Dhanam is over, the vadyar's and others will ask the people wanting to congratulate the couple and get rid of their gifts to wait because the marriage is not over and the man and woman are not yet husband wife. Ideally, only after the holy 7 rounds around the fire, do the man and woman become husband and wife. Theoretically, you are not married until those steps around the fire. So, if you or any other person wants to oppose the marriage it can be done before these steps. You can walk away after Mangalya Dhanam because you are not yet technically married but you cannot walk away after circling the fire because by then you are Married.
What I said above, I think does not hold true for the Shastiabdapoorthi marriage because I dont recollect my parents circling the fire. Once the Mangalya Dhanam was over, there were a few more prayers offered and then everybody approached my parents to congratulate them.
All people younger to my parents took their blessings and my parents took the blessings of their elders. Then gifts were exchanged and soon people started walking to the dining area for lunch.
It was nearly noon by the time all the people had left and it was just a few close ones and we who were left. All of us were happy that things had gone well and the function had been nicely done.