Monday, July 7, 2008

What is Ayush homa?

We had Baby Rabbit’s Ayush homam this weekend. It went so amazingly well as expected – what with the beautiful surroundings of the Sri Govardhana Kshetra of the Udupi Sri Puthige Mutt and our wish to make it a perfect day. Before arranging this homam, I scoured the Internet looking for some information on what exactly is Ayush homam, and what kind of ritual/procedure is performed. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any place where the entire information is given in one single page. So we had to resign ourselves till we could go through the homam ourselves. So now that we have, armed with the knowledge gathered during the ceremony from the purohit/shashtrigal and from the various websites I read, we thought why not outline the procedure of Ayush homam here for the benefit of souls like me who seek to know more. So here goes. Do pardon me if this is not 100% accurate.

Ayush homa (also spelt to as Aayusha homa or homam)

The Ayush homa is performed primarily to pray for longevity and prosperity of life - Ayush meaning age or tenure of life, and homa, the invocation of the deity through a consecrated fire. Lord Shiva is invoked as Sanjeevani or Mrityunjaya, the devatha in charge of longevity. It is usually performed on the First birthday (Star birthday) of the baby. It may even be performed anytime later during one’s lifetime. The Ayush homa is said to have originated from the prayers of Markandeya.

Markandeya was the son of Saint Mrukandu who was destined to die at an early age of 16. On the proposed last day of this life, Markandeya prayed to Lord Shiva embracing the idol/lingam while Yama prepared to take away his life. Markandeya chanted the sacred Mrityunjaya Stotram praying for Lord Shiva to protect his life. When Yama tried to throw the noose around Markandeya’s neck, the noose also enveloped the lingam. Lord Shiva then emerged, angry and furious with Yama for trying to take away the life of his devotee. What ensued is a battle where Shiva is said to have brought death to the God of death himself (Yama). On the condition that Markandeya will be let free by Yama forever from the fate of death, Yama was spared his life. There are different variations to this tale, some of them featuring Lord Vishnu instead of Shiva. For more details, see here and here.

Before the homa is begun, the devotees performing the homa pray to their family/native deity or God seeking their blessings. After this, the couple/parents along with the kid are invited to sit facing the homa kundam or the altar. The altar is made of three parts
– The Eastern end is decorated or painted with five-colored Rangoli portraying a Mandapam (Mandapa) or Peetam in the bhoomi (Earth). The five colors are supposed to signify the five elements of nature. This will act as the place where Sanjeevani /Mrityunjaya is invited to sit and shower his benevolence from. This can be compared to the respect with which we treat our guests and ensure they feel special. Similarly, the God is also treated in a special way.
– The middle portion is where the Agni Kundam/fire altar is kept. The Agni is traditionally considered as the carrier of our prayers and offerings to the concerned deity/devatha. It is said that since these devathas are so powerful, they are not easily reachable to the ordinary man. The Agni acts as an easy and approachable intermediary who can pass on our devotion and prayer to the devathas. The Agni along with his brother takes our offerings to the Gods and leave behind the prasadam in the form of ashes. Besides the Agni Kundam is a small depiction of another Rangoli portraying Lord Ganesha.
– The other extreme portion (North-East) is where the Kalasham is kept. A Kalasham is a pot filled with water and covered with a turmeric-smeared Coconut surrounded by Mango Leaves. This is supposed to symbolize the sacred waters of Ganga and Bhagirati. To know more about Kalasham, see here.

The homa consists of three stages – Karmaadi (Karma + Aadi, the beginning), Karmamahdya (Karma + Madhya, the middle), Karmaanthya (Karma + Anthya). Karmaadi starts with the customary prayers to the God of beginnings, Lord Ganesha. This includes inviting the God to his mandapa/mandala/seat, praying and praising him, bestowing him with flowers and akshata, offering him the neivedyam, and imploring him to facilitate a smooth time ahead for the homa to proceed without interruption.

The purohit/shashtrigal also does what can perhaps be called transferring the power of attorney. Usually, in the olden days, the devotees performed by the homa or yagnas by themselves. But in this day and age with no training whatsoever in vedic literature, we rely on the few purohits/shahtrigals to do it for us. So one of the rituals in the homa involves the learned purohit requesting the couple to formally give the right of performing the homa to them who then chant the mantras on the devotee’s behalf.

After the Ganesha pooja, Sanjeevani /Mrityunjaya are invoked and offered their place on the Eastern end Mandapam made specifically for them. The homa continues with the purohit/shashtrigal chanting a series of mantras. While the main purohit attends to the Agni Kundam, two others pray to Mrityunjaya on the Eastern Mandapam and the Kalasham on the other extreme. The sacred fire is then kindled and various offerings are made. A favorite offering for Sanjeevani /Mrityunjaya is a mix made of honey, sugar, and ghee. This is offered to the Agni with the help of grass stems. The purohit/shashtrigal halt during Karmamahdya and ask the couple to pray for their kid’s well-being and ayush. It is said that the Gods are at their most benevolent self at the peak of the homa and praying to them at this instance is guaranteed their blessings. With the purohits chanting the mantras with devotion, and kindling the fire with ghee and offerings, the Agni burns bright and takes our prayers to the Gods.

The homa is concluded with Poornahuti or Purnahuti, Aarati and offering the Thambula(m) to the Agni. While the purohits continue with the last of the mantras, the Agni quietens down and becomes a gentle flame. Prasadam in the form of ashes from the Agni Kare distributed to all present.

The Brahmins are offered their dakshanas and their blessings are sought as well. (At the end of any auspicious pooja/homa, whatever the Brahmins say will come true. Hence the Brahmin blesses the kid and family with their prayers by saying “Manasabhista Praptirastu” – meaning May whatever you desire in the heart come true). All the elders in the gathering are also invited to bless the little one.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

well drafted :)

-GGOM

Anonymous said...

I was in search of such a description on Ayusha Homam. I am glad you took the initiative to do this.
Nandhu, MO

Anonymous said...

Thank u so ooo much, i was lookin for the ayushhoma katha,, very glad u posted it.. Appreciated.

Mohan said...

Informative article. I came across this while researching about what Ayush homa is as I have been invited to one.
Good writing style too

Anonymous said...

Thank you! The synopsis of the significance and the homan itself is just what i was looking for...

Anonymous said...

Hi simply superb.....my doubt on this aayush homam is where can i do it? in my own house or in shiva temple which will be better...give me ur suggestion?.....

Anonymous said...

Thanks - best description I've seen yet!

What would be nice though, is the actual script and translation of the series of matras that the priests chant.

The devil always lies in the detail!

AKGN said...

Thank you very much for great article.

kumar said...

Very useful. I have a request can you say whether this ritual can be done in any vedha padasala where we can give young brahmins food and any thing that would be useful to them. Any place in chennai

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Anonymous said...

Great writeup, very helpful information on the Ayusha homa subject. Our society needs people like you.,,thanks for sharing - Kiran, Bangalore

vasantha said...

Nicely explained and it is interesting to read

Anonymous said...

how much did the homam cost you? we dont have to buy anything and give?will they arrange it all?how many days notice to be given?can we arrange it on phone?TIA

Anonymous said...

Very nicely written

karthik c.s said...

Hi

Its well defined .. but i have a doubt..
My baby was born in Jan13th 2016 at 8:13pm, As time was not good.. People are suggesting to do Ayush and Mruthinjaya homa on 11th day..

I am hearing these homas will be done at 1st year birthday or later.. i am confused now..

Baby has Low sugar when born, we need to carefully and more cautiously look after.. as well...

Need your suggestion on this..

Thanks
Karthik
9886606291

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