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Re: A few points about tiru ArAdhanam

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Fri Dec 18 1998 - 11:11:45 PST

Some questions have cropped up since my post on this topic
yesterday. Below are some clarifications, based on my limited
knowledge. I ask more experienced members to correct any errors
I may make.

At the outset, I would like to state emphatically that 
the ArAdhana procedure is best learnt from one's acharya
and one's elders.  Each family or tradition tends to 
perform the ArAdhana slightly differently, with different
prayers and slightly different procedures.  I think this
variation is actually very nice; PerumaaL likes being 
being worshipped in different ways. So we should try to
maintain the uniqueness of our different traditions.

When is someone qualified to perform ArAdhana?

The Sri Vaishnava is only instructed in how to do ArAdhanam 
as part of the rite of samASrayaNam, where one officially is 
initiated into the sacred truths of Sri Vaishnavam by his or 
her acharya.  Instruction in the traditional way of worshipping
the Lord is one of the five samskAras or sacraments administered
by the acharya to the new Sri Vaishnava.

Anyone who desires to worship in the traditional manner
should seek out an acharya and undergo samASrayaNam. 

Worshipping pictures of the Lord

Ideally, every home should have a sAlagrAma, a manifestation
of Lord Vishnu in the form of an ammonite fossil (see Sri Vijay
Srinivasan's recent post for further details).  ArAdhanam is
best done directly to the sAlagrAma, according to tradition,
and this is how the orthodox do their worship.

These days, many households do not have a sAlagrAma. I have
been instructed and have read in books that one can worship an 
image of the Lord in the form of painting or picture instead. 
The question then arises as to how to bathe the deities in
snAnAsana.  My surmise is that where one would normally pour 
the water directly on the sAlagrAma, when using pictures,
one simply drops it into the pratigraha pAtra [*], mentally
offering the water to the Lord for His bath. This last part
needs to be clarified by elders.

[*] pratigraha pAtra -- the vessel in which all water used 
                        during ArAdhanam is poured after
                        offering to the Lord

What prayers/mantras to use

As I stated above, each tradition uses different prayers
in different orders.  However, even if one knows no prayers,
paasurams, or Veda mantras, one can simply use the tirumantra [+].
In fact, the tirumantra combined with an offering of water is
an appropriate substitute even when one is unable to offer
any food to the Lord! (Thanks go to Sri Vijay Srinivasan
for bringing this to my attention in a private email).

[+] tirumantra -- the ashTakshara mahAmantra, which is imparted  
                  by the acharya at the time of samASrayaNam

So, not knowing any Veda mantras or prayers is no reason to
not perform ArAdhanam.  This also means that one should not
incorrectly and improperly recite the sacred Veda mantras,
if one is not instructed in them face-to-face; there are 
always 100% acceptable alternatives.

In a future email, I will list a few of the Veda sUktas 
and paasurams from the Prabandham that are in vogue in our

What is all this transferring of water between vessels?

Anyone who has witnessed a tiru ArAdhanam at home, a
temple, or maTha has seen how the worshipper mysteriously
and regularly transfers water between five cups and a 
larger vessel.  This used to mesmerize me, and I thought
I could never learn the procedure.

It is actually very simple.

There are five main cups (panca pAtra) used, and a larger
vessel that holds the remainder of the water after offering
it to PerumaaL and Thaayaar.  The five pAtras used are:

  (1) arghya             for washing hands
  (2) pAdya              for washing feet  
  (3) AcamanIya          for Acamanam (drinking water for purification)
  (4) snAnIya / pAnIya   for bathing / drinking
  (5) Suddhodaka         "pure water" for washing the spoon between

These five pAtras are either of equal size, or, preferably,
in ascending size (I can explain why). The sixth and larger 
vessel, as noted above, is known as the pratigraha pAtram.

(Sometimes yet another pAtram is added for AcArya pAdodakam,
 but I'll omit that for now, mostly because I'm unfamiliar
 with its use.) 

Six Asanas are offered to the PerumaaL and Thaayaar (see my
previous email for details), taking them through the various
stages of worship.  For each Asana, the Divine Couple is
invited to a "new place" for the next stage of worship, 
so they are offered the courtesies of arghya, pAdya, and
AcamanIya, so they can refresh themselves.  These are 
traditional courtesies offered revered guests in the Vedic 

Here is why the transferring of water takes place.  Roughly,
at each Asana:
  (1) First, from the arghya pAtram, a spoon of water is taken, 
      offered to the Lord, and the remainder is placed in the 
      pratigraha pAtram.
  (2) Second, the spoon is "washed" in the Suddhodaka pAtram by
      taking a spoon of water and dumping it in the pratigraha
      pAtram. This is because one should not mix the water
      used in the different courtesies offered to the Lord.
  (3) Third, two [$] spoons of pAdya water are taken, offered
      to the Lord, and placed in the pratigraha pAtram.
  (4) The spoon is washed as in (2).
  (5) Three spoons of AcamanIya water are taken, offered,
      and placed in the pratigraha pAtram.
  (6) The spoon is washed as in (2).

  [$] The numbers of spoons of each type of water offered varies
      from tradition to tradition.  What I mention here is how
      I learnt it.

Once the connection is made between the transferring 
of the water and the courtesies, including the washing
in between, it all makes a lot of sense.

If you are fortunate enough to attend a thirumancanam
(ceremonial bathing) of the Lord at a traditional temple
such as Tiruvallikkeni, you will notice how the arcakar
very carefully takes the spoons of water, offers them to
the Lord's hands, feet, and mouth, and only then places
them in the pratigraha pAtram.  This makes the whole 
procedure all the more obvious.

[ Care should be taken to not mix the different waters before 
  offering them to the Lord.  This is taken to such an extent
  that the five pAtrams should be dedicated for their respective
  waters and should not be mixed up.  Thus, the arghya pAtram
  should always be the arghya pAtram. It should never be used
  for pAdyam, AcamanIyam, etc. ]

The tIrtha (consecrated water) offered to bhAgavatas
after the conclusion of worship is taken directly from
the pratigraha pAtram.  

More in future posts. Your questions are welcome if anything
is unclear.

tirukkacci nambi daasan