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Sunday, 3 August 2014

Sraavana Purnima - Purpose of Upakarma


Sri Chandramoulisvaraya Namah:
VEDA DHARMA SASTRA PARIPALANA SABHA (Regd.)
Kumbhakonam
Publication No. 24

This is the right name for it; not ‘Aavaniyavattam’. Though this is the right name, it does not convey the right meaning. We should call it ‘Aavani Purnima’; nay, even this is incorrect. We should in fact call it ‘Sraavana Purnima’. Followers of Aapasthambha sutra should perform a karma called ‘Upakarma’ on the day of Purnima in the lunar month of Sraavana, if there are no blemishes on that day. Sraavana Purnima generally is found to occur on the day of Avittam star in the solar month of Aavani. Hence that day is referred to as Aavani Avittam, further twisted in spoken parlance to ‘Aavaniyavattam’.

This same Upakarma should be performed by Rigvedis on the day of Sravana (Tiruvonam) star in the lunar month of Sraavana and by Samavedis on the day of Hastha star in the lunar month of Bhadrapada, which comes next to Sraavana.

What is the purpose of Upakarma?

The purpose of performing any karma will be known if we note the Sankalpa uttered by the Upadhyaya during that karma. When he utters Sankalpa, we should ask him for the meaning of the Sankalpa. Only then he will at least show interest in learning the meaning himself. Rigvedis’ sankalpa is as follows:

“Adhitanam chandasam ayatayamatvaya adhyayana viryavattartham”

Import of this: That which is not ‘yatayamam’ is ‘ayatayamam’. What is ‘yatayamam’? Even in Bhagavadgita, we come across “Yatayamam gatarasam puti paryushitam cha yat”. One yamam means three hours. Food loses its efficacy after three hours after cooking. Based on this, the term ‘yatayamam’ is used to denote objects which have become useless with time. For food it is three hours; similarly various materials have different limiting times upto which they are useful. If these time limits are crossed, their efficacy diminishes. Same with Vedas. After Upanayanam, study of Vedas commences on the first Aavani Avittam day. Utsarjana karma is done in the following Pushya (Thai) month, study of Vedas is halted and in the next six months, as much as possible of the six Vedangas, viz. Siksha, Vyakarana, Chandas, Niruktam, Jyotisham and Kalpasutram is studied. Then in the Sraavana month of the following year, on the day of Upakarma, Upakarma is performed and study of Veda mantras is commenced again. This karma of starting study of Vedas is known as Upakarma. Only if Upakarma is performed in this manner, will the meagre store of Veda mantra with us have power. If not, it will become ‘yatayama’ like the food described in Bhagavadgita.

If at least the Gayatri mantra which is with us is to have power, we must perform the karma of Upakarma without mistakes in mantra and with understanding of meaning. Only because Upakarma is not performed with sincerity, some karmas done these days become useless owing to loss of power of mantras. Hence Upakarma should certainly be performed.

If we are to commence uttering a mantra, it will bear fruit only if we worship the Rishis and Devatas who gave us that mantra at the beginning and receive their blessings. Their power of Tapas (austerity) will accrue to us through that mantra. There are three ways of worshipping them. One is invoking them in an object (kurcha of darbha, purna kumbha, lemon, betelnut fruit or lump of clay) and worshipping them with sixteen specified upacharas. The second method is doing ‘Tarpanam’ with water for those Rishis. The third method, more powerful than the previous two, is to perform ‘Homam’ in Agnimukham for them.

Hence during Aavani Avittam, we should arrange for an additional Upadhyaya to explain to Grihasthas during the progress of Homam the Rishi or Devata for whom oblations are being given in Agni by the main Upadhyaya.

More important action required: 

On a Sunday prior to Aavani Avittam Grihasthas should assemble in a place and learn as far as possible from knowledgeable Upadhyayas the Upakarma procedures properly and completely with meaning and intent; on the day of Upakarma, they should observe those procedures without forgetting the meaning.