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Brahmotsavam

Tatachar_at_aol.com
Date: Mon Apr 26 1999 - 20:19:36 PDT

Dear Bhagavathas,

We (Sri Srinivasa Bhattar) recently submitted this article on Brahmotsavam to 
Temple Net.

BRAHMOTSAVAM:  Srivaishnava Perspective

I. TYPES OF CELEBRATIONS IN A HINDU TEMPLE:

The various events that take place in a Hindu Temple can be grouped under
four major categories:

1. Nitya Kainkaryam - Daily Services
2. Kaalotsavam (Special calendar events;  Seasonal celebrations)
   (e.g., Brahmotsavam, Vasantotsavam, Festivals such as: Sankranti,
    Janmashtami,  Raama Navami etc.)
3. Sraddhotsavm or Kaamyotsavam (as desired by  devotees)
   (e.g., Kalyanotsavam and Vaahanotsavams)
4. Nimittotsavam - a prescribed celebration for purification: For e.g.,
Pavitrotsavam (for any deficiencies or wrong doings that may have
been incurred in temple services), Jheernoddhara-shuddhi Puja
(following Temple remodeling, repair, expansion, etc.) and
Grahana Shuddi Puja (following a Solar or Lunar eclipse).

II. BRAHMOTSAVAM - A MAJOR EVENT:

The  list of ceremonies conducted in a temple is  based on the religious
tradition as well as  the  Deity  for which the Temple is dedicated to. The
Kaalotsavams in a typical Srivaishnava Temple are:

1. Brahmotsavam
2. Vasntotsavam(Spring festival)
3. Summer festival
4. Makara & Karkataka Sankaranti (Winter & Summer solstice)
5. Ugadi (new year's day)
6. Navaratri(s)
7. Deepavali
8. Ratha-saptami
9. Vaikunta Ekadashi and Mukkoti Dwadashi
10.  Kaisika Ekadashi & Dwadashi
11. Gokulashtami
12. Rama Navami
13. Narasimha Jayanthi
14. Ananta-padmanabha vratam
15. Dhanurmaasa (Maargazhi) puja
16. Kartika deepotsavam
17. Varalakshmi vratam
18. Thirunakshatrams (Birthdays) of Alwars and  Acharyas.

Special funds are set aside by the Temple administrators  to conduct these
celebrations in the prescribed manner on the specified days. One of the
major Kaalotsavams in Srivaishnava Temples is Brahmotsavam
(tiruk-kODi-tirunAL).


III. BRAHMOTSAVAM TIME:

Period of the year in which the Brahmotsavam  is conducted varies from
temple to temple. Some examples of when it is performed are:
1. Pratishtapana (Kumbhabhishekam) day of the Temple
2. Pratishtapana day of Sri Shataari
3. Thirunakshatram- Birthstar/Birthday of the Temple Deity
4. Conducted as Shraddotsavam or Kaamyotsavam as desired
   (sponsored) by devotees.

Thus, there can be more than one Brahmotsavam in a given year. In the
Thirumala Temple, it is conducted  once in Purattasi (Sep. 18- Oct.18). It
starts on first day of Navaratri (Oct. 10, for 1999) and concludes on
Vijayadashami (Oct.19, for 1999), which also happens to be the
Thirunakshatram (Shravanam star)  of Sri Venkateshwara, the Deity of the
Temple. This is the most prominent Brahmotsavam (also called Manava
Brahmotsavam).  Brahmotsavams in Tirumala are also conducted at three other
times of the  year, namely:  Kaisika Ekadashi (also known as, Raakshasa
Brahmotsavam),  Mukkoti Dwadashi (also known as, Daiva Brahmotsavam) and
Rathasaptami (also known as, Aarsha Brahmotsavam). Besides, these 4
Brahmotsavams in a year, it is also conducted as a shraddotsavam  as
desired by devotees. It is stated that in the year 1551 AD, as many as 11
Brahmotsavamas took place. At the Srirangam Temple, Brahmotsavam for this
year started on March 23 and concluded on March 31 for 1999. March 31 of
1999 is also the thirunakshatram of Sri Ranganayaki Thaayar, the consort of 
Sri
Ranganathar. For the year 2000, Brahmotsavam at the Srirangam will start on
March 12.

IV. ORIGIN OF BRAHMOTSAVAM:

Brahmotsavam means "Grand celebration" or a "celebration performed by
Brahma". We will shortly see how both the meanings are appropriate for this
event.

Lord Indra once killed a Brahma-raakshasa (a Brahmin with demonic
characters). In doing so, he incurred a great sin of killing a Brahmana-
"Brahma hatya dosham(BHD)". To relieve Indra of this burden, Lord Brahma
conducted a ceremony. In this ceremony, officiated by Brahma himself, Indra
held Sriman Narayana ( Lord Vishnu) on his head during the special ritual
bath "Avabritha Snaanam". This verily was the first Brahmotsavam.

Because of the immense cleansing  power of  Brahmotsavam, this utsavam is
periodically performed in Temples to wash away all sins that may have
been incurred in the community as a whole. It is said that the Lord Brahma
himself rendered the first Brahmotsavam seva (service)  to Lord
Venkateshwara (Vishnu) of the Thirumalaishrine.  Indeed, it is a common
belief that every Brahmotsavam is witnessedby Lord Brahma. In recognition
of this, a well decorated empty chariot ispulled in front of  the chariot
carrying the deities at the processions heldduring the Brahmotsavam Brahma
is believed to be seated in that chariot and oversee the celebration. Thus,
Brahmotsavam is also referred to as "Brahmapratyakshotsavam" (celebration
conducted right in front of Brahma). The earliest inscribed record of
Brahmotsavam at the Thirumala Temple is 650 AD.  References to Brahmotsavam
can be found in Varaaha Puraanam (ch.18) and Bhavishyotthara Puraanam (ch.
24).

V. KEY ELEMENTS OF BRAHMOTSAVAM:

Brahmotsavam celebration lasts for 9 days. Brahmotsavam is not just a
Temple ritual, but is a grand festival for the whole  town. It begins with
Ankurarpanam and concludes with Avabhritha Snanam (Ritual bath or Theertha
vaari). On each day, the Utsava Murthis (Mobile Deities) will be nicely
decorated and taken in procession, once in the morning and once in the
evening on different Vahanams (vehicles). In the night, there will also be
Unjal seva (Deities seated on the swing). The intricate step by step
details vary  from Temple to Temple. Here is a brief summary of main events
in the Brahmotsavam celebration at the Balaji temple in ThirumalA.

Day 1
Ankurarpanam (planting 9 grains in soil placed in earthen dishes).
Kankanadharanam (wrist band) to Utsava Muthi and priests.
Procession of Vishvaksenar (Commander-in-chief of Vishnu's army).
Mritsangrahanam- Collecting the soil for Brahmotsava Yagna(Hawan, Fire
ceremony) Peetam.
Vishvaksenar returns from procession and enters the Yaga Shaala (Place
where
Yagnam is conducted), where he is received with Poorna Kumbham
honor(special
Pot filled with water).  He is believed to be the Pradhana Yajaman (Chief
conductor) of  this Yagnam. This is followed by Procession of Deity on
Pedda
Sesha (Bid serpant) Vahanam.
Day 2
Morning Utsavam (procession) of Deity on Smaller Shesha (smaller serpant)
Vahanam.
Dwaja Rohanam in  the evening. Garuda Dwajam- a flag bearing the emblem of
Garuda (The Eagle- Vehicle of Vishnu) is hoisted with Veda  Mantrams from
Taittiriya samhita dedicated to Garuda.  This signals start of Brahmotsavam
to the whole town. Once the flag is hoisted, it is expected that no
householder leaves town or plans any auspicious ceremony in the house until
the conclusion of Brahmotsavam. Thus the whole town is able to fully take
part in the celebration and not be preoccupied with other personal
activities. Even if someone has to leave town on emergency, they are
expected
to return prior to un-hoisting the flag (Dwaja-awarohanam) on day 9.
Day 3
Morning procession  on Lion (Simha Vahanam)
Day 4
Morning procession on the  "every desire fulfilling giving tree"
(Kalpavriksha vahanam)
Day 5
Deity is dressed as Mohini (temptress, a form of Vishnu) and taken
procession
in ivory pallaki (carrier).
Night procession is taken on Eagle (Garuda vahanotsavam),
Day 6
Morning: Procession on  Hanuman (Monkey, devotee of Rama/Vishnu) vahanam.
Night procession on Gaja (Elephant) vahanam.
Day 7
Morning procession on Surya Prabha (Sun) vahanam.
Evening procession on Chandra Prabha(Moon) vahanam.
Day 8
 Morning: Rathotsavam -Ratha (chariot) Yatra (procession) for the Deities.
Night: Procession on Ashva (horse) vahanam.
Day 9
 Morning: Deities  carried in pallaki (carrier) to the Pushkarani (sacred
pond) in front of the Varaha Swami (the Boar incarnation of Vishnu) Temple
for the special bath -Abhishekam and Avabritha Snanam (Theerthavaari
thirumanjanam). All devotees also take bath in the pushkarani. The Deities
are taken back to the Kalyana Mantapam of the Temple. The flag is
un-hoisted, marking the conclusion of Brahmotsavam. Even watching the video
of this majestic celebration in itself deeply touches our  heart, mind,
eyes and
ears.

VI. MANGALAM (EPILOGUE):

We submit here our humble attempt to describe this sacred event and  pray
that with the grace of Lord, we be granted the Brahmanandam (eternal joy)
of witnessing His Brahmotsavam. We also wish to thank Sri Kannikeswaran for
giving us an opportunity to share our thoughts, however inadequate they may
be. May the Lord grant everlasting happiness, peace, and prosperity to Mr.
Eswaran and family for their great kainkaryam (service)  through Music  and
The Temple Net.

 SRI KRISHNARPANAMASTU.


By- (B.S. Srinivasa Bhattar and Koti Sreekrishna) 4/26/99

VII. GLOSSARY OF PERIPHERAL WORDS:

Acharyas: Teachers.  Naathamuni, Yamunacharya, Ramanujacharya, Vedanta
Deshikar, Manaval Muni, are considered the foremost Acharyas. The list
continues on to cover  religious heads of Srivaishnava congregations :
Ahobila Matam, Parakala Matam, Andavan Ashramam, etc.


Alwars: Mystic Tamil Srivaishnava poets of South India. Tweleve in number.
They lived in South India (present day Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala  and
Andhra Pradesh)and composed devotional hymns to Sriman Narayana (a parallel
to this is the 63 Tamil Nayanmars,  who outpoured their verses dedicated to
Shiva and the Shiva family  Divinities)are devoted to Siva). Their
collective work of nearly 4000 pashurams(Verses) is called Divya Prabhandam
(Sacred text). They are also referred to as Dravida Vedam (Veda in
Dravidian language)and Dravidopanishad (Upanishad in the Dravidian
language). There is no sex, age or caste discrimination in the Alwar
tradition. One of them Andal is a young girl. Two of the Alwars were Kings,
and many were out castes.

Ananta-padmanabha: A name of Vishnu.  Ananta denotes the cosmic serpent on
which Vishnu reclines and the Padmanabha refers to Vishnu as the one with a
lotus that sprouting out from His naval.

 and a Lotus is blooming from His belly button.

Deepavali:  Row of lights (festival). Celebrated in October or November
months.


Dhanurmaasa: The month spanning December 15-January 14. This period is
Considered highly auspecious  for religious inclinations. Lord Krishna
declares this month as His most favorite.

Dwadashi: Twelfth day of waxing or waning Moon.

Ekadashi: Elevength day of waxing or waning Moon. Vaikunta Ekadashi is
a special day of the year in which the gates to Vishnu’s abode is open
equally to believers and non-believers.

Gokulashtami: Birthday of Lord Krishna (The ningth  incarnation of the Lord
Vishnu).


Grahana: Solar or Lunar Eclipse.

Jheernoddhara: Repair, rennovation, maintenance work.

Kaalotsavam: A Periodic celebration.


Kaamyotsavam: Celebration specially requested (sponsored) by devotee(s) of
their own accord.

Karkataka: The Zodiac of Cancer.


Kartika Deepotsavam: The month beween November 15-December 15 is Kartika.
Celebration with earthen lamps is Deepotsavam.

 Kumbhabhishekam (Pratishtapana): Day on which a Temple deity is
established.

Maargazhi: Tamil name for Dhanurmaasa. See also Dhanurmaasa.

Makara: The Zodiac of Capricorn.


Mukkoti: Liberation. The Dwadashi following Vaikunta Ekadahi is celebrated
as liberation Dwadashi. See also; Dwadashi, Ekadashi and Vaikunta.


Narasimha Jayanthi: Appearance of Lord Narasimha (Half man half lion)(The
fourth incarnation of the Lord Vishnu).

Navaratri(s): Nine day festivities at the beginning of each season.
The most important are at the beginning of Fall season (Sharad Navaratri)
and the Spring season (Chaitra Navaratri).

Nimittotsavam: celebrations as ordained by religious injunctions.

Nitya Kainkaryam: Daily  services (conducted in  a temple).


Pavitrotsavam: Celebration for rectifying any short comings in daily
services.


Pratishtapana (Kumbhabhishekam): Day on which a Temple deity is
established.

Puja: Religious worship or service.

Rama Navami: Birthday of Lord Rama (The sevength incarnation of the Lord
Vishnu).


Ratha-saptami: Chariot festival conducted on the seventh day (Saptami) of
Waxing Moon.

Sankaranti: Apparent entry of Sun into a Zodiac.


Shuddhi: Purification, sanctification.


Sraddhotsavm: See Kaamyotsavam

Srivaishnava: Followers of the philosophy established by Sri Ramanujacharya
(1017-1130 AD)- a continuation of tradition previously established by
Nathamuni and Yamunacharya. Gives equal regard for Hindu Scriptures in the
Sanskrit language and Tamil works of Alwars (300-900 AD). Total surrender to 
Sriman Narayan (Lord Vishnu and His consort Lakshmi)  is the essence.


Tiruk-kODi-tirunAL: This is a Tamil word for Brahmotsavam. It literally
means Sacred Flag sacred day. Refers to the special flag hoisted at the
beginning of Brahmotsavam. Tiru is sacred or holy, kODi is flag, nAl is
day.

Tirunakshatrams: Sacred Birth star. Birthdays in the Hindu custom are
generally conducted as per the Birth Star. There are 27 such stars
constellations called
Nakshatras (Ashvini, Bharani, and so on to Revathi). Tiru is a Tamil word,
meaning Sacred, or holy.


Vaikunta: Abode of Lord Vishnu.


Varalakshmi vratam: A vow dedicated to boon giver  Goddess Lakshmi, consort
of Lord Vishnu.

Vasantotsavam (Vasanta + Utsavam): Spring Festival.

Vratam: Vow





VII. REFERENCES:

1.  S.K. Ramachandra Rao, The Hill-Shrine of Vengadam: Art, Architecture
and
Agama of Tirumala Temple, First Edition, (Ed., Daivajna K.N. Somayaji),
Pub.,
Kalpatharu Research Academy,  Bangalore, 1993.

2. S.K. Ramachandra Rao, Thirupathi Thimmappa (in Kannada), IBH publihers,
Bangalore, 1980.

Daasan,

Sreekrishna Tatachar