Our elders have deemed some vedic functions as very important in our lives. Jatakarmam, Namakaranam, Annaprasanam, Choulam, Upanyanam, marriage, pumsavanam-seemantham, shahtyabdapurthy santhi, satahbhishekam, and kanakabhishekam are part of this list. Such functions are performed elaborately often over two days or more. They are normally preceded by Purvanga rituals. The purvanga rituals are aimed at purifying the person, purifying the puja upakaranas and invoking the blessings of the Gods and forefathers. Accordingly udakasanthi, angurarapanam, pratisarabandhanam and nandisradham are performed either in the morning of the day of the function or on the previous day, depending upon the length and complexity of the main function, the hours of the muhurtam etc. On occasions where Ashtotharam is performed it will have to be done on the previous day as it is quite elaborate and time consuming. Similarly, Nandisradham also will have to be performed the previous day if “feeding of Brahmins” is done as part of it. Sometimes for various reasons it is performed by inviting the Brahmins, invoking the forefathers and then giving them dakshina, rice and vegetables. As this function takes hardly an hour it can be performed on the day of the main function itself. Further, these days as vadhyars are scarce and most of the functions are conducted at mantapams rented at exorbitant costs for this purpose, and also the difficulty in entertaining the guests for more days etc, all the functions are compressed and conducted within a single day. The luxury of performing the functions over two or more days can be had only in villages as in the present case. In the present case we had the added advantage of easy availability of a sufficiently large hall for the purpose. Accordingly the rituals were extended over three days as follows:
Ashtotharam on the first day, nandisradham, angurarapanam and pratisarabandanam on the second day, and the main functions of the upanayanam and choulam on the third day. Being a village taking care of the guests was not a big problem. Space, accommodation and other infrastructure were not major constraints. Being summer holidays many elderly guests who had nostalgic memories of village life in their childhood had converted this occasion into a long cherished holiday in the village; later they went on pilgrimage in Kerala or to visit other relatives and friends in Kerala and adjoining states. I would like to mention here that all villages in Kerala these days are as good as small towns elsewhere in India in respect of communication and transportation facilities, availability of other infrastructure etc. Connectivity by mobile phones, landlines, public transports, availability of taxis, autos on telephone call, internet cafes and departmental stores at street corners, availability of emergency medical attention, provision of safe water in the households are all the hallmarks of most of the villages in Kerala now; while retaining the old rustic charm.
Nandisradham is performed to get the blessings of the forefathers before an important ritual like Upanayanam. Some people perform it before marriages also, in a small way of course. Nandi in Sanskrit means the beginning, so with Nandi begins the actual rituals for the functions. Usually during the Nandisradham before Upanayanam, the Brahmins are fed and various Upacharams are offered to them, whereas during the Nandisradham before the marriage, they are only given rice and vegetables and dakshina. I have not seen an elaborate Nandisradham being performed before marriage.
In a recent marriage we attended I talked to the vadhyar about the nandi sradham being performed during the marriage rituals. He mentioned that the rituals are performed in a very simple way by chanting the mantras and the dakshina is kept aside to be given away to the brahmins later. He also said that the sight of rice and raw banana during the marriage functions was simply not acceptable in many homes, thereby rendering the performance explicitly impossible. Some families rule out the performance simply stating that it was not done in their families. However, in the present case it was done elaborately by drawing nine kolams on the mantapam immediately after the vratham, placing a plantain leaf on each kolam conaining rice, vazhakkai, thamboolam, dals, pazham etc and nine brahmins were seated , one each against each leaf. The groom’s father then invoked the deavas and the forefathers two at a time and mahavishnu at the end in the following order:
Sathyavasusamyak visvedaeva (2), Prapitamahi and Pithamahi (2), Prapitamaha and pitamaha (2), Sapatnika matuhprapitamaha and sapatnika matuhpitamaha (2) and Mahavishnu (1), thus making a total of nine. Each Brahmin was then offered the contents of the leaf along with dakshina; again invocaion was done two at time as described above. It may be noted that in case the nandisradham is performed on a day prior to the main function the brahmnins are given more upacharams like vastram, jalapatram, umbrella, footwear, fan, stick etc and are also fed sumptuously as explained elsewhere ( feeding being done in place of rice, dal and vazhakkai, as in the present case).
The Nandisradham differs from the regular Sradham (anniversary) though both are meant to get the blessings of the forefathers. Nandisradham is known as Shobanasradham and no homam is done. The happy mood of the function going to be performed next day prevails during the Nandisradham also. There is festivity in the air. As no homam is performed in which havis is offered to the Agni and then offered to the pitruswarupa Brahmins, there is no pitrusesham and all can partake of the food after the Brahmins are fed, whereas during the Pratyabdikasradham, the pitrusesham can be partaken only by the immediate blood relatives. Further, for the pratyabdikasradham the month, paksham and thithi are fixed as on the day of the death of the parent, no particular thithi needs to be chosen for the performance of the nandisradham. Normally it is performed on the day previous to the main muhurtham.
During Nandisradham, Kolam is drawn and the rituals are performed on that. Usually there are 9 Brahmins on whom the father, paternal grandfather (or paternal grandfather and his father, if father is alive) mother and paternal grandmother (or paternal grandmother and her mother-in-law if mother is alive), maternal grandfather and grandmother, 2 vishwedevas and one Mahavishnuswarupa are invoked. In some places, there are 2 mahavishnuswarupas, thus taking the number to 10.
Before the Nandisradham, Udakasanthi, Angurarpanam and Kanganadharanam is performed. As we were having the choulam and upanayanam for two of my nephews on the same day, all the above rituals, except Nandisradham, were done for both the boys simultaneously.
Choulam is the first mundan ceremony for boys and is usually conducted between the age of 2 and 3. According to Sastras, this should be the first occasion when a razor is used on the child’s head. Due to various reasons, we could not perform the choulam for our handsome and charming younger son till the age of 5. So he had long hair when he went to kindergarten causing his teacher to send a note saying, “Please cut your daughter’s hair.” Eventually, we took him to Palani and offered his hair to the God there.
These days, it is only in very few families the choulam ceremony is conducted; if not, just the vedic rituals are conducted along with Upanayanam. Last year when we wanted to conduct the choulam for a nephew in Bangalore, our vadhyar said that there was no vadhyar who knows to conduct the choulam in Bangalore and we had to get our family vadhyar from Puthucode.
Udakasanthi involves invoking the presence of Varuna, the God of rain and water, and the other devatas and the holy rivers like Ganga, Jamuna, Godavari, Saraswati, Narmada, Sindhu, Cauvery, in the water kept in the kumbham(pot) through the chanting of mantras from the Vedas and doing abhisheka (pouring over the head) with that water to the boy whose upanayanam or choulam is to be performed. This is the ritualistic bath given in functions like upanayanam, choulam, seemantham (it is done for the wife), shastiabdapoorthy, shathabhishekam etc., seeking the blessings of the Gods and the holy rivers to protect the ward and praying for long life, health and happiness.
After Udakasanthi is Angurarpanam or Paalikai, in which navadhanyas (seeds of nine cereals and pulses) soaked in milk are purified by mantras and sown into 5 pre-prepared pots or paalikai kinnams by 5 sumangalis. Colloqially it is called paalikai thalikal. The privilege for sowing the seeds into paalikai goes to the boy’s mother, followed by grandmothers, athai, mami etc. These days, to accommodate very important invitees, the list gets longer and longer and instead of 5 sumangalis, there are at times, 11 or more. In a recent marriage I had seen a similar function being performed by quite a few ladies. The list went on and on until the vadhyar put a stop to it, to continue with other functions. The ladies are then given thamboolam and dakshina.
The sown seeds need to be watered for 3 or 5 days by which time they sprout and grow to a good height. This symbolizes long life and prosperity. Actually twice a day, in the morning and the evening, the wife of the Kartha (the mother of the boy whose upanayanam, choulam or wedding is being performed) does a small neivedyam of betel leaves and 2 plantains and sprinkles water and prays for the well being of all. After 5 days, the sprouts are immersed in running water (preferred), or in a tank or well. This immersion of the sprouts is to be done by 2 young girls accompanied with vadyam (a boy accompanies them beating a plate with a stick). On return, aarati is done to the girls and they also get a cash reward (when we were young, we used to get 25 paise).
After angurarpanam, is the kangandharan. A thread sanctified by mantras, is tied to the boy’s right wrist to ward off all obstacles and give him long life and prosperity. It is believed that once the kangandharan is done, the proceedings of the function cannot be stopped.
Only after Kangandharan is Nandisradham performed. As said earlier, 9 Brahmins are invited and the late forefathers are invoked on them and blessings from them are sought for the successful conduct of the functions and the long life and prosperity of the whole family. The Brahmins are given new vastrams, dakshina, jalapatrams and meals. Here again, the menu is satvic or samaradhanai samayal.
The Nandisradham is different from the annual pitrusradhams in many ways. The mood itself is different. Whereas, during the pitrusradhams, the mood is somber during nandisradham there is a festive mood. No kolam is drawn during pitrusradham and kolam is drawn during nandisradham.
The food is offered as neivedyam to Grihadevathas during Nandisradham.
In the case of Shashtyabdapoorthy and Satabhishekam , normally udakasanthi and rudrekadasini are conducted on the previous day.
During the Nandisradham conducted at our house the menu was as follows:
We had Jangiri, Parippu vadai, Rasavadai, Banana and Jackfruit chips, Palpayasam, Chakka ( jackfruit) Pradhaman, Mambazha Pulisserry, Chakka kari, Thoran, Thayir Pachadi, Rasa vadai, Thogayal, Curds. Again, no pappadams for Nandisradham.