In days of yore, agraharams across Tamil Nadu and Kerala would wear a festive look much before the festive event of Avaniavittam. Grihastas and Brahmacharis alike would make preparations for this great day, in fact the most important red letter day in the Brahmin calendar. The womenfolk would busy themselves planning the myriad culinary delights that mark the occasion. Boys would roam the village streets, going from house to house, chanting
Ambi porantha Sobhanam
Akka porantha Ukkarai
Paatti porantha bakshanam
Paatta porantha pazhukavadi
What is Upaakarma or Avaniavittam?
Upaakarma in Sanskrit means “the Beginning" also called Avani Avittam in Tamil, is a hoary Vedic ritual that is still practiced still practiced with intense fervor and devotion by Tambrahms world wide.
It is a sacred ceremony that involves Brahmins shedding their old panayanam threads and donning new ones according to the srauta rituals. Tarpana is offered to the Rishis who composed the Vedas, The next day is the all important Gayatri japam that involves reciting the Gayatri mantra 1008 times..
Brahmins can be broadly classified as Rigvedis, Yajurvedis and Samavedis. Each of these groups observes Upakarma on different days.
Upākarma is conducted once a year during the Dhaniha nakshatra
on a full moon day in the month of Sravana.
Rig Vedis perform Upakarma on the day in the shukla paksha of the month of Shravan While a full moon is not essential, presence of the Shravana nakshatra on this day is a sine qua non.
Sama Vedic Upakarma is observed on the day after Shravan Amavasya in, Hastha nakshatra. This generally coincides with Ganesh Chaturthi. Vaishnava (Iyengar) Upakarma more or less follows the same pattern as the Smartha upakarma, the only minor difference being in the Sankalpam
A Day to Renew, Refresh and Rededicate
After a ritual bath, sandhyavandanam and kamokarishya japam at one proceeds to engage in the main rituals. While the kamokalrishya japam is done at home, the main rituals are held in temples and community halls where members of the community gather in large numbers.
The ritual begins with the discarding of the old sacred thread and donning a new one. This is preceded by a prayaschitta, prayer of atonement for sins one may have committed. A rough translation of the prayer goes somewhat like this. “I put on this yagnopavitam to erase all my sins, to obtain divine blessings and to enable me to perform all the duties as a Brahmin as prescribed by the Vedas and the smritis and as adopted by the good and the righteous.”
Then a new poonool is worn accompanied by the Sanskrit mantra that says “ I put on this yagnopavitam the sacred thread that is pristinely pure, is inseparable from God, is capable of prolonging life and ranks the foremost in the accomplishment of a Brahmana. May this pure Yagnopavita endow me with strength and dignity.”
Following this, the old poonool is discarded accompanied by the prayer that says, “I am removing this old and worn out poonool. May the new one endow me with long life and brahminical excellence.
This is followed by Veda Aarambham, Viraja Homa and Brahma Yagna. Brahmacharis perform Agni Kaarya or Samhida Daanam. The Brahmin initiate, that is one who has just received his yagnopvitam, also performs naand in the first year of Upakarma Avaniavittam is also the occasion when we offer tarpanam for our ancestors and to our spiritual progenitors, viz our rishis.
Neiveidyam and arati is followed by a ceremonial feast. The day following the upaakarma is called the Gayatri japam day when the Gayatri mantram is chanted 1008 times. Initiates, viz. those who have just been initiated into Brahminhood, also perform the Gayatri homam.
Courtesy : Tambrapatrika