Hail to Upaakarmaa! [Source]
As the sun “starts” its journey “southwards”, the next six months are full of festivals in the sanatana dharma calendar. All of them, without exception, are celebrated to promote the brotherhood of man and to fan the cooling comforts of universal Love. Upaakarmaa, also known as Avani Avittam – Gayatri Japam, does this in a no-nonsense way.
Children and youth have a go at it!
Pictures remind, but fail to capture, the taste
Honestly, when the Upaakarmaa function arrives, the first thought that comes to mind is the changing of the sacred thread [poonool] I wear. I must do this in the morning hurriedly and get to work in time because Upaakarmaa function normally would fall on a work day. I would attend a batch session in a temple or in a priest’s house. The batches are conducted at hourly intervals with an innovative efficiency that would put world-renowned efficiency management principles to shame. I would hurriedly try to mouth the sacred chantings [mantras] recited by the priest, change my poonool, pour sesame seed and rice-mixed water on a plate at appropriate places in the mantra recitation and heave a sigh of “I’ve done my duty” when it is over. This will be followed by a delicious breakfast consisting of idly, vadai, pongal, poli and a cup of hot divine south Indian filter coffee. I would down all these hurriedly without giving them their due attention in time – especially the coffee which has to be savored at slow speed. As I rush to work and not be late, I remind myself that I must do the Gayatri Japam without fail the next day.
Uppaakarmaa is a function celebrated over two consecutive days. In Tamil Nadu, the first day function is called Avani Avittam and the second day, Gayatri Japam.
Upaakarmaa means “to begin doing actions in the company of divinity”. [upa – near divinity. aakarma – begin my thought,word and action.]
The function reminds me that I must do all my actions in the company of divinity and must begin to do so without delay. This is a structured annual calendar reminder because I’m lax in keeping the company of divinity.
The Upaakarmaa function helps me achieve this in six specific segueing steps.
Day 1 morning. Avani Avittam
Step 1: Kamokaarsheet Manyurakaarsheet japam
Step 2: Brahma yagnam
Day 1 noon. Avani Avittam
Step 3: Maha sankalpam
Step 4: Yagnopaveeta dhaaranam
Step 5: Kaandarishi tarpanam
[For a brief description of Kaandarishi tarpanam, please see here].
Day 2 morning. Gayatri Japam
Step 6: Gayatri japam
Formal study of the vedas begins on the first day of Upaakarmaa. Based on the vedic lineage and tradition of family practices, and the calendar calculation methods used, Upaakarmaa function falls on different dates for different sections of the society. This year, it is celebrated on August 17/18, 18/19 and September 4/5. Details of celebrating Upaakarmaa are readily available on-line and off-line and are not covered in this post
Upaakarmaa‘s efficacy lies in its simple message:
I must keep the company of the divinity within me as I think, speak and do.
I must begin to do so immediately.