Friday, March 29, 2013

Vaishwadevam - article by Guest writer R. Ramanathan

I am happy to post another article by Mr R. Ramanathan on the Vedic Homas. In this article he is bringing to our notice a Vedic ceremony called Vaishwadeva which integrates the pancha maha yajnas. One among them is Athithi bhojanam or feeding an athithi every day before taking food. It is amazing to know that there are people in this age too, who are sincerely following these customs and rituals. This article also shows that a Brahmin who sincerely follows his varna and asrama dharma cannot be expected to harm others. We had such Brahmins among us until a century ago.

My 4 part article on Athithi bhojanam can be read here:

The Vaishwadeva ceremony


R. Ramanathan

The following article is just a summary of what I saw and learnt at the feet of a great Vedic scholar, Brahmashri Radhakrishnan living in the village of Mahadanapuram between Karur and Trichy. He has been maintaining the aupasana fire for almost 35 years without discontinuity. Also he has performed all the paaka yajnas prescribed in the shastras which itself is a feat in this Kaliyuga. Also he was doing Sahasra gayathri japa (repeating the gayathri mantra a 1000 times) for 30 years in the early morning on the banks of the cauvery without fail, walking for about 6-7kms one way daily. Also he is the only Vedic scholar whom I know who performs the Vaishwadeva ceremony (to be performed 2 times a day). Even people who have performed soma sacrifices don't do this.  He is an acknowledged Paaka Yajna expert in the entire Karur district.  About a year ago, when the present acharya of Shringeri Sri Sri Jagadguru Bharathi Teerthi Maha Swamigal, visited the village he felicitated Brahmashree Radhakrishnan. This article  does not give any technical details of the ceremony but the philosophy and concept behind it.

I was at Mahadanapuram to witness the performance of a spectacular paaka yajna called the Ishaana Bali (my father also took part in the performance) for 3 days. Even though I have been going to Mahadanapuram for around 6-8 months now, it was only now that I took interest in the Vaishwadeva ceremony after the blog owner Mrs Jayashree madam suggested to me to write an article on this subject. So I observed the performance very closely and asked him to give me a discourse on the subject. The following is the summary of what he told me.

The Vaishwadeva is supposed to be performed in the aupasana fire. But anything cooked in the aupasana fire can be eaten only by the sacrificer and his wife, who mainatain the fire. So the shastras say that it can be performed in the loukika agni (wordly fire,  not got from any special kindling ceremony) so that the remnants of the offerings can be eaten by anybody irrespective of caste. The life a brahmin householder, if lived as per the mandates of the shastras is really equal to if not greater than that of a sanyasi. He gets to eat his first meal only after 3pm after all his dependents/guests have eaten. He has to perform the pancha mahayagnas daily. They are Deva (offering to gods), Pitru(offering to manes), Bootha(Offering to beings like insects birds etc), Manushya(Feeding an uninvited guest) & Brahma yajnas(Offering to the Vedas and Veda Murthy called Brahmanaspathy). The Vaishwadeva ceremony encompasses all these 5 yajnas into one. Shree Krishna in the Geetha , says that food, if cooked and eaten only for one's own self and family, results in grave sin for the eater. So food must be cooked offered to the world via the Vaishwadeva ceremony and later the householder is asked to have the remnants. These remnants are technically called "Vighaasam"(This point has been added by me and was not part of the original discourse). A householder surviving on Vighaasam alone is considered to be the greatest tapasvi among householders as per the Mahabharata.

Also when cooking food, violence because of pounding, heating cutting etc, can result in killing of very small beings hidden in plant matter, grains etc. So this ceremony also offers prayashchita for this too. If food is eaten without performance of this ceremony, by a householder, it is considered to be a sin and among that it includes the sin of murder too.  After rice is cooked in a Vengala paanai (Brass pot) on a coal fire (In tamizh it is called kumitti adupu), it is offered to each of the beings mentioned previously. One important point to be noted here. There is even an offering for Adharma too using the mantra "Adharmaya Svahaa" as for dharma. Also there is an offering for Kaama to with "Kamaya svahaa". Then comes the offerings for various gods, beasts, ghosts, yakshas, raakshasas, Asuras etc. Note the difference between the broader universal view of Vaidhika sanatana dharma and the narrow Abrahmistic world view (Heathens, Kafirs will not be saved etc). After this these offerings are collected and offered to beasts like rats and crows with the "Kaa kaa" sound. Sadly this alone is being done in most Hindu households now.

After this, the performer is required to go to the outskirts of his village and invite an unknown wayfarer for food irrespective of caste. Note that an Athiti means an uninvited guest and not one's own relations or neighbors. After entertaining the guest then the householder has his own food. As of now this rule is not followed rigorously because there are no travelling wayfarers on foot today. This practice was followed even before 100 years ago. No doubt that in ancient times that there was no need for hotels or food prepared commercially because of householders who sincerely followed this ritual. It is because of this ritual that India has become famous for its hospitality.

 An example of the importance attached to the entertainment of uninvited guests, is seen in the Katopanishad.  When Nachiketas goes to the abode of Yama and reaches his house. He stays at yama's door without food and water for 3 days. When Yama comes back and sees Nachiketas at his house unattended to, he is shocked and feels guilty. It was in order to propitiate him and as a prayashchita for his negligence, Yama offered 3 boons out of which one was Nachiketas' famous question on the eternal self. So the Katopanishad starts of on this concept of Athiti pooja and its importance as far as a householder is concerned.

The Vaishwadeva mantras are to be found in the Mahanarayana Upanishad of the Taittriya Aranyaka. Anybody who has studied the Upanishad may remember the mantras I wrote above.


Jayasree Saranathan said...

Namaste Mr Abhinand.

Mr Ramanathan, the author of this article is well versed in Vedic homas. He would answer here if you post your questions here. No personal communication is entertained.

R.Ramanathan said...

Namaste Mr Abhinand,
Firstly thanks for your in interest in the article and glad to know you are interested in Shrauta/Smarta karmas. I have some questions for you to just understand you more.

1. You say you are a Rig Vedic Brahmin. Have you completed Adhyayana of your shaaka?. Just as a curiosity, what shaaka of the Rig Veda do you belong and the sutra you follow for Grihya/Shrauta karmas?.

2. If you have completed it have you read some of the shadangas, atleast the minimum necessary for your shaaka(For example the shiksha, Praatishaakya of your shaaka)?.

3. If you are married, have you performed aupasana/ stalipaaka etc anytime?.

There is a reason i ask these questions. Without completing adhyayanam of your shaaka no Shrauta vidwan would teach you Shrauta. With Rig veda it is most complicated since the Hota, who is the Rig vedic chief priest, needs to chant thousands and thousands of Riks in these rituals. As for why you need to know the Angas, when you chant these Riks in these yajnas, you must pause the chanting and adapt it to the karmas being done. When you pause and resume, and thus split mantras across Paadas/Vaakyas it can result in Word sandhis getting reversed and thus svara changes can happen. Plus also the additional knowledge of some basic Samans are needed to adapt the Riks for the stotras sung in Soma rituals.

I personally know many people in remote villages in Tamil-Nadu but the thing is they are too shy to let outsiders inside until they are convinced that you are knowledgeable and genuinely interested. Plus we have the problems of western scholars mis-using their knowledge to suit their own ends, after they learn from them slyly. They have become more closed now and suspicious. So we need to go slow there.

Not last but least, and please do not mistake me, they are very fussy about their "achaara" to the point of irritation. So any outsider would be viewed with suspicion. I am just being frank and i do not intend to be fussy or to hurt you. Expecting your answers eagerly.

R.Ramanathan said...

By the way "Unknown" is "Ramanathan". Just to clarify have edited my profil in google++

Unknown said...

Great to know this sir. Very few people are available like you who are interested in pursuing this Shrauta tradition further. In pursuit of this conversation i have created the email-id We will keep madam in the loop too for all conversations on this email-id.

Vedula Jnana Karthik said...

Namo Namaha Ramanathan Garu ! I am a Samavedin belonging to Ranayaneeya Shakha and Drahyayana sutra. Can you please help me learn all the rituals that a Gruhastha should perform

R.Ramanathan said...

Sir namakaram.
Thanks for your question. I am not a guru and am an ordinary 9-5 day job person like the majority, so no need to address with so much reverence.

As to your question, it can be considered in 2 headings

1. Karmas under the grihya sutras
a. First karma after marriage during which the first grihya fire is kindled, is aupasana. This is the basic rite one which all other karmas including the shrauta karmans are based on. Aupasana is a cycle and it involves the 2 times per daya aupasana, darsha/purna maasa staali paakas, agarayana stali paaka, sarpa bali , isana bali, pinda pitru yajnas and so on in the appropriate times.
b. The daily vaishwadeva,
c. Any other pooja or japa one might take up like the panchayatana etc.
d. I assume that daily 3 times sandhyavandana brahma yajna is already known and need to be listed
This starts from the agni aadhana karma where the 3 shrauta agnis garhapatya, aahavaniya and dakshina agni are divided from the aupasana fire. Using these one must perform the darsha purnamaasa sacrifices at full and new moon, chaturmaasya, pashubandha and the chaturmaasya as a cycle as mentioned in the earlier grihya karmans. This is to be done till death. Then you have the soma yajnas like agnihstoma, atyagnishtoma, ukta, sodashi, atiraatra till the vajapeya to perform if you can afford this.

Also you have the regular annual shraddha and tarpanas during ammavasya. Also not to mention the shannavati shradda or 96 shraddhas to be performed in a year, which has been abridged as 96 tarpanas.

The list is an exhaustive ideal list and cannot be followed by everybody even in the past not all could. So there is not question now. Adapt and do what you can. The ideal vedic grihasta ashrama is such a tough life, that the present day Brahmin marriages seem to be a farce with no real samskara being generated and is just an instagram event/

Unknown said...

I am a samavedin belonging to drahyayana sutra.i am going under veda veda adhyayanam enough to do srauta karmas?

Rama said...

As a sama Vedi completing your shaka alone will not be enough to perform shrauta karmans as a good knowledge of the yajur veda is needed for the performance of atleast the basic shrauta karmans like Agni aadana, Agnihotra, Darshapurnamaasi, chaaturmaasya. In all these havir yajnas there are only four ritwiks Brahma, Adhvaryu, hota, agnith. There are no samans sung in these yajanas so the entie udgatr gana of ritwiks are not there.

To perform all this requires a good knowledge of the yajus veda to understand the praishyas used, when to chant the vashat, vaushat, yaajya purnuvaakya etc. It is only in the pashubandha if i remember correctly, the first yajna involving the formal chanting of the sama veda by the udgata is the niruda pashubandha(Independent pashubandha, i.e. it is performed independently and not part of any other yajna).

It is only in the soma sacrifices that you will see the sama veda being used to the fullest extent. These soma sacrifices are very expensive and cannot be performed frequently. So on a regular basis you will be performing the havir yajnas alone which do not involve the samans. So adhyayana of your shaaka is not enough. In addition you need to know the yajus, the shrauta sutras of your shaka and those of the yajur veda if you intend to be a yajamana.

This is needed because the shrauta sutras of your shaka only will talk of the role of the udgata alone. Also last but not least, you need to have a wife who is willing and cooperating if you are married and if not make sure you get such a wife. Because these days i have seen divorces happening on the basis of performance of sandhyavandanam even. What to say of these things?

Vedula Jnana Karthik said...

Namo Namaha Ramanathan Garu,
I perform agnihotra daily( Pratah Sandhya and Sayam Sandhya) based on Akkalkot "Agnihotra Book" and a guruji  from akkalkot sriji parampara taught me the same . Can you please help me understand how to separate  tretagnis  (I.E Garhapatynagni,Dakshinagni and ahavaneeyagni)

R.Ramanathan said...

Not sure what do you mean when you say you do Agnihotra? If you mean what is commonly known as Agnihotra, i.e using a copper vessel and giving unbroken hand pounded rice as offering, that is not Agnihotra vedically speaking.

It's only after agnyaadhana that 3 fires as kindled. The details of agnyaadhana performance is described in taittiriya brahmana 1st and 2nd prashnas. It gives the order of kindling the 3 agnis etc. It is after this the real Agnihotra, offering of milk in the ahavaniya, is performed.

Vedula Jnana Karthik said...

Thanks for the details Ramanathan garu! Do you a copy of taittiriya brahmana 1st and 2nd prashnas.If so,please share the same

Vedula Jnana Karthik said...

Please share a vedic hymn or mantra to sing while giving harathi to my child on his birthday

Unknown said...

Can I get the procedure for vaishdevam.

Vedula Jnana Karthik said...

@Unknown It is pleasant to see a person from my veda sakha and sutra :) Can you please share your contact number so that vedic related info can be shared

Sugar Dsquare said...

Jai Shrimannarayan Sir,
Can you provide the details about how to perform this Vaishwadeva yajna along with mantras??
Thank You