The moment this wonderful annual function Avani Avittam comes to our mind, some of us may think that this occasion is just for change of poonal. Is it so? While it is true to some extent, it doesn’t end up there. This beautiful occasion has several rites. A particular one has powerful mantras for shedding of all sins and making a new beginning. It also involves the renewal of our pledges to keep our Vedic duties, in addition to one’s individual Veda Adhyayana, towards society and humanity at large. Perhaps that could be one of the reasons for celebrating it together, Samashti, at a common place like river bed, community hall, temple premises etc.
Rites involved in the Upakarma:
1. Kamokarsheet Japam:
2. Brahma Yagnam
3. Maha Sankalpam
4. Yajnopaveeta dharanam
5. Khandarishi tharpanam
6. Khandarishi Homam (includes Veda reciting)
7. Acharya Sambhavana
Two rites are further explained:
* Kamokarsheet Japam:It is a wonderful prayer cum japam. The repetition of this mantra, at least 108 times, with related Sankalpa is to remind oneself that it is lust & anger that are the root cause of all sins. One should always be careful and vigilant.
* Khandarishi tharpanam:Here we offer tharpanam to seek the blessings of Maharishis who are the sources for various Khandas of Vedas. Ancestors also are invoked here to seek their blessings.
A word aboutthe Pradhama Sravanam(thalai Aavani avittam):
For the first Avani Avittam, ie., that comes immediate after one’s Upanayana, Naandi Sraaddha also is to be performed – in hiranya rupam. In addition to this, there are some more rites specifically prescribed. However it may be noted that there is no Kamokarsheen Japam for the boys who have Pradhama sravanam. Also it is advisable to get the thalai Aavani Avittam is performed with the same Acharya, Vadhyar, who has conducted the Upanayana (Brahmopadesa) for the boy
Poonal-How it is given shape?:
We are all aware that the adornment of the Yajnopaveeta or the sacred thread is one of important parts of the Upanayana. It is interesting to see how the yajnopaveeta, the sacred thread, is given shape. The basic material for the yajnopaveeta, also known as poonal in Tamil, is cotton thread woven by persons who are qualified to preach Vedas. Married women including widows are also qualified to do this job. A Brahmin then takes the woven material, sits in a clean place, and spins the thread around his fingers in such a way that each loop is 4”. He makes 96 such loops, folds the total length 3 times and presses the shortened length till it achieves the desired stiffness. Next he makes this into three circular loops. The edges are knotted twice to make the final product – a circular thread with two knots. While doing so a particular mantra is chanted silently by theperson who ties the knot, known as Brahma-mudichchu.
Not below the navel: The poonal is worn across the body, from the left shoulder to the right hip. It should not go below the navel: and if it does (this can happen to shorter persons), the extra length should be folded and knotted again, to reduce the length.
The number: A Brahmachari wears one(with 3 strands) . A Grahasta two (with 6 strands).
One important and interesting point to note is that a grahasta should never be without a tritiya vastram or a third garment over the top of his body in addition to the regular veshti and uttariya. It may happen that he finds himself without a tritiya vastra at times, and so some grahastas wear a third poonal, just so that their niyamas are not disturbed. This is an extra role played by the poonal.
Adorement of the Yajnopaveeta (When one can change?):
1) On the day of Upakarma:On the day of Avani Avittam, Upakarma, Poonal has to be necessarily changed. (This year, 2012, Yajur Upakarma falls on Aug 1st , and the Rg Upakarma falls on the next day. For Sama Vedis, the date is 24th July as per Vaakya Panchangam. As per the Srirangam panchangam it is 17th sept.)
2) If it tears or becomes useless: If the poonal tears or becomes useless, as it happens sometimes, it should be replaced at once, and the new one should be worn with the chanting of the proper sankalpa and mantras.
3) Valid reason is a must: The yajnopaveetam should not be changed without a valid reason. Before commencement of rituals like Upanayana, Vivaha, Graha Pravesa, Specific Homams and Sraaddha karyams, the pradhaana karta has to change his poonal. Of course after one’s tainted period (theettu) gets over, he has to necessarily have a new one.
4) Tying keys, dollars: Tying keys, pins or dollar coins to the yajnopaveeta is strictly prohibited.
5) It is a must: After Upanayana, any karma done without the poonal in place will not get the desired result.
Sandhyavandana (Gayatri Japam)-This is the pivotal karma:
After performance of his upanayana a person should compulsorily do Sandhyavandana.
Dharma sastra is categorical on this point: it clearly says that a Brahmin who does not do Sandhyavandana is impure and unfit for any Vedic karma.
At least do Key Sections: People who complain of not having time to do the full Sandhyavandana can at least do the key sections – arghya, pranayama, maarjana, praasana, tarpana and Gayatri japa. These will take just 15 minutes altogether, and these parts can be easily learnt. If these sections are done consistently, one’s interest will develop in doing it the proper way.
No alternative: It should be understood that there is no alternative to Sandhyavandana. Going to a temple or attending a bhajan or any other form of devotion does not exempt one from Sandhyavandana. Bhakti marga is truly great, but cannot be in lieu of this key karma.
Note: for UK residents, the sankalpa mantras are different, Please use the below link to get the correct mantras for the Upakarma – courtesy of my friend, Mr. Parthasarathy Narasimhan