Panjal Athirathra Yajnam – A Perspective

via Vivekananda Sharma published on April 18, 2011

For about last 6 months, news about Panjal Athirathra Yajnam has been consistently reported by some Indian Media Houses and some International Media Houses as well. Thanks to relentless efforts of Varthathe Trust and Namboothiri Brahmins, Panjal Athirathra Yajnam started on April 4th 2011. The whole Yajnam takes 12 days to complete and is a very complex process involving Rig, Yajur and Sama Veda recitation and procedural details.

Though Athirathram had been performed in 1990 and in 2006 as well, the importance of this Athirathram is that it is again being conducted in Panjal after a gap of 35 years. Panjal in Thrissur District in Kerala is considered as Yajna bhumi as it has a history of several Yajnas in the past. Last occasion of Athirathra Yajnam was in 1975. For 1975 Athirathram, Namboothiri Brahmins accepted request of Indologist Dr. Fritz Staal to record the event on camera. There is no direct evidence but one tends to feel that Namboothiris agreed to the request of Dr. Staal in return for some financial funding as last known athirathram in Panjal was conducted in 1956.

Without any doubt, Dr. Fritz Staal used 1975 recordings to come out with his epic and voluminous book “Agni – The Vedic Ritual of Fire Altar” in two volumes. The most remarkable aspect of Dr. Fritz Staal’s work is that he came down to Madras (now Chennai) and Benaras (or Varanasi) to learn Samskrit before he embarked on Indology, for which every Indian should feel indebted to Dr. Staal. However, it is really a pity on our part, that a foreigner like Dr. Staal had to take pains to preserve the tradition, and Namboothiris had to compromise on some things because of sheer lack of financial resources.

Panjal Athirathram 2011, should be treated as the Dharma Karyam of the year. In fact, one would have expected Governments of both Kerala and India to show support and make arrangements to ensure success of this project. However, Government of Kerala is going for polls while Government of India is busy supporting other causes.

Vedic Rituals like Athirathram evoke immense sense of history among Hindus, the battered ones of this wretched and ungrateful country. As our tradition is slowly eroding in the waves of modernization, events like Athirathram give some hope that future generations may know that ancient Hindus were not barbaric lot as pictured in some History books, but were masters of various sciences.

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