Rain lashes Kerala village as fire ritual ends

via IANS published on April 16, 2011

PANJAL: About 200,000 people watched in utter astonishment as the starry night suddenly turned cloudy and a heavy downpour, accompanied by strong winds, drenched the “yagasala” altar in this Kerala village before and after it was set afire Friday to mark the ceremonial end of Athirathram, the ancient Vedic fire ritual.

Rain appeared miraculously because the weather throughout the day was blistering hot and dry and the sky remained starry and clear in the evening.

It changed in five minutes as the sky turned dark and a strong wind built up at around 9.30 p.m.

All areas in the village of Panjal in Thrissur and also in Kochi, the port city, received the rain in a repeat to the 1975 Athirathram, said the organisers.

“The rain was caused by the strong convection current generated by the smoke rising from the altar and the continuous chanting of the mantras,” V.P.N. Namboodiri, head of the research team of the Panjal Athirathram, told IANS as people milled around the venue enjoying the cool rain.

Namboodiri is a former director of the International School of Photonics at Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) and emeritus scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The altar was set on fire at 10 p.m. followed by a fresh wave of rain.

Nearly 200,000 people had gathered on the concluding evening of the 4000-year-old fire ritual. They erupted into thunderous applause as the first drops of the rain fell.

While the priests claimed it a “miracle”, scientists said the Vedas were far ahead of its time in generating local rainfall, a practice that has gained ground of late with chemical nucleation in many parts of India’s drought ravaged areas.

The 12-day fire ritual for peace, purification, fertility, health and rain began April 4.

It was organised by a local non-profit group Varthathe Trust to revive dying Vedic traditions in the country.

Panjal is one of the key bastions of the “Samavedis” and “Rigvedis” – practitioners of the ancient Hindu scriptures Sama Veda and the Rig Veda – who have kept the two living traditions of Vedic chants and ‘yagnya’ (worship of elements) alive for nearly 4,000 years.

The village was host to four major Athirathrams in 1901, 1918, 1956 and 1975.

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