Unique Vedic ritual – ‘Athirathram’, started

published on April 4, 2011

Unique Vedic ritual starts in Kerala today
PNS | Thrissur

The air of Panjal in Kerala’s Thrissur district, a tiny village that values its agrarian traditions even in this modern era, will reverberate with the chanting of the Suktas from the 4,000-year-old Vedas for 12 days starting Monday with the beginning of Athirathram, a Vedic ritual.

Athirathram will be performed in Panjal from Monday to April 15, the auspicious Vishu day, in the same way it used to be performed by the ancestors four millennia ago. All articles, implements, pots, platforms and the venue itself would conform to those used in by the Vedic performers of that era.

Panjal had hosted an Athirathram before this in 1975 in the presence of scholars and scientists from several countries including the US. Since then only two other Athirathrams had been held in Kerala. A Yaga was held in Kundoor in Thrissur district in 1990 and the other was at Kizhakkanchery in Palakkad district in 2006.

The goal of Athirathram 2011 is promotion of universal harmony, peace, prosperity and spiritual enlightenment, according to organizers Varthathe Trust based in Ottapalam, Palakkad. The Yaga cuts through the barriers of caste, religion, race, colour and sex thus making it a union of humanity literally though it is performed by Kerala Brahmins.

The Yagasala, the venue of the Athirathram, has already been prepared in the paddy fields adjacent to the Lakshmi Narayana Temple at Panjal. This is the same place where Athirathram 1975 was performed. Eighteen Brahmin priests (Ritwiks) and their 25 associates (Parikarmis) would participate the Yaga.

Puthilathu Ramanujan Somayajippadu, who had headed a Soma Yaga in 2003, would adorn the position of Yajamanan (head of the Yaga) at the Athirathram and Dhanya Pathanadi will be Yajamana Patni. Experts from various fields have already reached Thrissur to study the influence of Athirathram on Nature and organisms.

During the Yaga, a team of scientists will conduct research into the impact of the Vedic chants and the fire ritual on the atmosphere. The Yaga would present the opportunity to explore the scientific implications on Nature, mankind and all other organisms, said Dr Sivakaran Namboothiri, a trustee of Varthathe and a participant in the Athirathram.

The preparations for the Yaga, which the Varthathe Trust expects to cost Rs 15 million, had started almost a year back. The tedious tasks of making earthen pots and wooden implements – metal is not at all used in any of the Yaga-associated rituals – were completed well in advance.

Somalatha, the rare medicinal herb whose juice is to be offered to Agni at the Yaga from tenth day on, was brought to Panjal on Saturday from Kollengode in Palakkad district in a procession which was given pious receptions at many places. The three thatched sheds which constitute the Yagasala would be set afire at the end of the Yaga in a symbolic dedication to Nature.

The 1975 Athirathram at Panjal was held under the leadership of the Harvard and Berkeley universities in the US and Finland’s Helsinki University. The choice of Panjal as the Yaga’s venue is not accidental but it is in line with geography and Vasthu principles. The place is also close to the Sukapuram temple, known as a great Vedic centre.

The rituals will begin every day with the chanting of Vedas and Homas. On the last four days, the rituals would be held throughout day and night, justifying the name of the Yaga, Athirathram – beyond the night. The organizers are expecting thousands of Veda enthusiasts to behold the event every day till April 15.

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