srimathe ramanujaya namaha
"Avani Avittam" or the "Upakarma festival" immediately brings to our minds the scene of chasing behind of VadyArs (Prohits or pundits well versed in vEdAs and its procedures) for getting the sacred threads changed before a stipulated time which is fixed nowadays definetly by the doer's respective Official work schedules and not by Vedas/Upanishad prescribed time periods. Also the above brings to our minds the aroma of special eatables like "appam" and "Iddly" which are done for a specific purpose which is also now obviously tweaked.
Reason for this Iddly and Appam
On the UpAkarma day, strictly speaking, the rule is to eat only after bhagavad-ArAdhana and the homam. If done properly this lasts well into the afternoon. Because of the length of the procedure, young brahmacharis and those others who are absolutely unable to bear their hunger are permitted to eat before the homam itself. The typical meal consists of idli and appam, but usually excludes rice. Complete fasting is observed after this through the night, in preparation for the next day's gAyatrI japam. In some traditions one meal is eaten during the day and phalAhAram is observed at night.
Let us try to contemplate on the actual reasons for doing this upakarma. As mentioned above, it is nowadays erroneously thought that upAkarma or AvaNi aviTTam is primarily the changing the yajnopavItam or the sacred thread (poonool). This is nearly a mile away from the actual reason. Changing the poonool happens very often, whenever a significant vedic karma is performed.
kAmOkArishIt japam
We begin the above ritual with a kAmOkArishIt japam. kAmo'kArshIt japam is done as an atonement, a prAyaScittam for not having done the traditional utsarjana
sankalpa earlier in the year. The sankalpa for the japam says this explicitly ('adhyAya-utsarjana -akaraNa' ). Just as upAkarma is the formal recommencement of Vedic studies, the utsarjana is a sankalpa done to formally halt study of the Vedas and commence study of grammar, prosody, pronounciation, astronomy, etymology, etc., as well as other shastras, all of which are helpful in understanding the Vedas. The year was therefore divided into two, one half for studying the Vedas, the other half for studying the VedAngas or Vedic accessories. The utsarjana has unfortunately fallen into disuse for quite a while, so what remains is the meagre prAyaScittam for not having done it. Therefore, the important yajnopavItam changing is for the upAkarma.
kAmOkArishIt japam is actually an act of apology to the lord that all the wrong deeds in the year that has passed by were done as a result of avarice (kAma) and anger (krOda).
kAndarishi tharpana
The next important step in upakarma is doing the kAndarishi Tarpana (the offerings of black seasame seeds and raw rice with water) to our ancestors, the great Rishis then the creator Brahma and the various devatas who are delegated for executing various activities by our lord Sriman Narayana. Please note (We did not come from apes or monkeys. We came from Rishis).
Adiyen is sure that this is going to be one another article in the forum which is going to be passed on like passing clouds and we are going to attend our daily chores as usual forgetting our glorious culture from the great sages, rishis and the acharyas and run behind the culture from the West. If this is going to stop you from your thought process for a moment as an act of comtemplation, then adiyen will feel this has done enough justice.
Adiyen ramanuja dasan,
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