Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Avani Avittam Upakrama

Did you know that this day, on the month of Shravana, was the first day of the Fall semester in the good old vedic schools? In the pre-historic days of the vedic schools, the Kshathriyas, Vaishyas and Brahmins attended school from Aug/Sep to Jan/Feb. Different vedic schools (rig, sama, yajur, atharvana) had different start days and the date and details of performance of upakrama ritual corresponded to the vedic school that the student followed.

Initially, once the harvest season began in Jan, schools closed and students were forbidden to continue with their education and learn the vedas after Jan. It was considered a sin. Imagine! the very concept of formal education was considered a sin for 6 months every year. I want this law brought back. This is an awesome law. Later, this practice was considered inefficient and students were allowed to rehearse, whatever they learned in the first six months, from Jan/Feb to Aug/Sep. So the students rehearsed during spring and summer semesters whatever they learned in Fall & Winter :-) and when they began the next new academic year, they sought atonement for such a sin.

Upakrama is a ritual done on the first day of the academic year every year. It is done till date in the 4 southern states, Maharashtra and Orissa. It consists of Yajnopavitam change, seeking atonement and vedic-style hair cuts for the new academic year. The second day of the academic year involved reciting the Gayathri Manta - 1008 times. While the Upakrama date varied depending on the vedic school, the Gayathri recitation date was the same for all schools. Learning of the vedas never stopped until a person died. So a person regardless of age or marital status did this every year. As mentioned before, each of the 4 vedic schools had different start dates With Sama Veda having the latest start date in September (on the day of Vinayaka Chaturthi). I am not sure why they got such a large summer vacation. Maybe they were slow learners and needed more rehearsal time :-) or maybe Sama veda with all its musical intonations was difficult to master and hence the students needed time. I have always been curious about the relationship between Vijayadasami and Avani Avittam. Vijayadasami is considered the day of beginnings by most people, whereas Avani Avittam had already marked the beginning of school. So what is the deal here?

Avani is the Tamizh name for the Shravana month and Avittam is the star that appears on the month of Avani. The Panchangam (calendar) is used to decipher the date on which the Avittam star will appear. It is also believed that this was the day in which education as a concept began. Following the creation of the world - it is on this day that Brahma, the first being, was supposed to have learned the Vedas from Lord of Knowledge - Hayagriva - thus becoming the first ever student.

P.S: Raksha Bandhan, is celebrated in N.India on the same day (sharavana purnima) as Avani Avittam every year. I do not know much about the significance of this day except that it is attributed to many legends including tying of sacred thread by Sage Brihaspathi on Lord Indira's wrists, Tying of sacred thread on the wrists of King Bali by goddess Lakshmi, Yamuna tying raakhi to Yama etc.


sowmya said...

all this avani avittam, vedic school, start date etc is only for boys! i think vijayadasami was for girls to start something new typically music class etc.

Hawkeye said...

hmm ..girls.. strange species :-) completely forgot about them :-)

Venkat said...

I was almost sure that I was gonna see an entry on this in your blog today :-)

getting Upakarma done in the US must be a different ordeal?!

Out here, must say that the process itself seems to have been shortened over the years.

Folks at the Ramanujakudam took just about 25 mins.

was thinking of reading up about it today and posting an entry. Thanks for giving me a good start on the topic.

Hawkeye said...

here is the full procedure. it is insanely long.

i took 40 minutes.but thats because i did the kamokarshith manyukarthith 1008 times. the person in the link talk about the procedure extending until afternoon etc.

i remember doing as a bunch of people with cousins it took about 40 minutes

Yadayada said...


Just as Venkat I was also expecting a post on Avani Avitam from you today. You r predictable :-)

Hawkeye said...


enna kozhuppa!

Casement said...

Here is a case study -

A woman knows the mantras for Avani Avittam and her man, a total novice in sanskrit, who cant read the mantras from the book cant recite it unless he recites after someone. So, the woman chooses to recite the mantras so the man could repeat after her. But the man denies saying she is a woman and cant take the position of brihaspathi...and chooses to do the A.avittam without any mantras. Who do you think is justified?

Casement said...

Btw, until now I didnt know aavani avittam had to do with such a concept. Actually today I asked one of my cousins here if he had his Aavani Avittam done and he said he belonged to Sama vedam. I asked him why the dates differed...he couldnt answer. Your answer seems very logical. actually there isnt anyone who belong to Rig or Atharvana right?

sowmya said...

I was just looking at the link.
"jambudvIpe, bhAratavarshe, bharatakhaNDe,SakAbde, meror dakshiNe pArSve"

don't you have to correct this if you are doing upakarma in america?

something like "utthara america dvipe, america varshe, america khanDe, sakabDe, and then may be milwaukee nadyA tIre or michigan sarasI tIre" depending on where you are.

they have only corrected the nakshatram and day.

just nit-picking :-)

Ramanujam said...

BTW,i was also expecting a AA post from u!
mine is also coming up....LOL
"aambalaiku irukkara ore pandiga..."-enga veetu dialogue!!!

ter are quite a good number of ppl in RIG veda ,it is atharvana veda that has got no ppl in it currently...

Hawkeye said...


knowing krishna - this could easily be your family story :-)

/* cant read the mantras */

this situation can be rectified, unless he is blind. if he is blind then a brihaspathi needs to recite it for him.

for practical purposes you have three alternatives

(1) /* chooses to do the A.avittam without any mantras. */

this just seems like a changing yajnopavitam like changing a T-shirt.

(2) use the internet sites like which have voice based tutorials.

(3) /* woman and cant take the position of brihaspathi. */

so this is the crux of the case. 'should women be brihaspathi or not'.

the politically corrct answer would be to say 'yes ofcourse they can. this is the 21st centiry etc'. . There will be some who will shy away from answering the question. I expect the above two to be fairly typical responses.

if you are looking for an atypicla response from me, my answer is " I don't know". Ramanuja had women as acharyas. I am not sure if all acharyas can be brihaspathis. I have to llok into that before answering.

Also there is the whole biomechanics theory, which folks are still researching. It is a long held theory that reciting certain vedic mentras, the way and meter in which it is recited causes chemical reactions within the body results in overdose of testostrone and development of certain physical features. this could be the reason why rishis of yesteryears were super potent and could impregnate women at will. it also causes a masculine body structure with flattening of breats etc,. people i argued with have told me that this is the reasonw hy women werent allowed to say it. most 'feminists' who say it today are 'smart' enough to say it after a child birth or two.

i have no knowledge of this science. however, i will not disregard it as granny's tale. when i have better knowledge of all this which maybe anytime from 5 years until forver, i will come back to you with a case recommendation. until then use choices (1) or (2).

Hawkeye said...


u have more kozhuppu than yadayada.

isnt there an american version in there. i am serious. i thought i saw it.

i am the one searching for a solution to my ipod problem. i am hardly qualified to answer doubts such as this.

i think the best answer is - it is what it is .

Hawkeye said...


I know people from rig veda. they are usually from karnataka and have it pretty much at the same timeframe as yajur. atharvana vedam is traditionally kerala section. no idea.

Hawkeye said...


seriously! its the only function where men have a role. i am beginning to think the prehistoric times were women-dominated societies. :-)

Hawkeye said...


until then you can use my default recommendation as "krishna is wrong . you are right"

i remember him doing a t-shirt change kind of thing when we were touring shimla etc.

Casement said...

Sowmya, you are absolutely right. The vadhyar here does say kroucha dweepe, Aindra kande, prashanta saagare and then some Mickelnee on so forth...I ve heard that!:)

sunshine said...

extremely informative!!
6 months of vacation... if only i cud know how that felt!

Anonymous said...

Seriously, the argument revolved around why a man should not borrow knowledge from a woman when he lacks knowledge. He argued that the woman's role stopped with idli, appam and pandigai thaligai and my point was if he didnt know the man's role, he could take help from woman!:)) I didnt know about the audio thing, else I wouldnt have let him go wo doing it the right way.

He did it as you said- like Tshirt changing. Idellatha vida there was another argument about wearing madisar sreecharnam etc that they were only veli vesham and external appearance has nothing to do with devotion. I am explaining how the vesham acts as an anchor, very similar to the dress code in corporate offices. So, ours was an Aavani Avittam abounded with arguments.


Casement said...

I hope krishna doesnt read this blog. Even if he does, I can strongly say I didn't write the prev comment. Naan budhisali daane?:P

thennavan said...

Casement, Sowmya, Bharath:

It is Krouncha Dweepe, Ramanaka Varushe, Gotheerththa Kande - FYI!


Hawkeye said...

/* they were only veli vesham and external appearance */

my dad and his side of the family are psuedo atheists, so i know where this comment come from. finally u beieve what u believe. no use in trying to change another person - be it child, husband, father etc.

to change another person - u need logic. there is no 'real' logic anywhere in this world. especially in belief systems. i never argue with beliefs because it is not completely based on science or logic. so I don't expect 'logical/scientific support' when I decide belief-related merits and I reconcile to the fact that others may be dissimilar.

however in the logic part of the world, to myself, i reconcile this kind of questions with two arguments

1) form and substance cannot be present without each other

2) if some rectangles are squares it need not mean all rectangles are squares.

but forming and not forming such opinions are usually (and not always) impressions developed in childhood, parents, bad experiences etc.

hypocrisy is usually prevalant in our society, i have seen it, and it does lead to the branding as mentioned by K above.

Casement said...

thanks thennavan. Btw Bharat, unakku naan noble prize tara poren for ur prev comment. I dont know how Im going to protect this blog from Krishna's sight:))

Hawkeye said...


didnt bring that 2 paper thing which they usually pack and send from india. i used a book. that did not have all this. so i guess i dubbed for my spirit in india :-)


nandri.. u thought K couldnt read sanskrit..he cant read englsih also :-) itha avan paathlum parava illai :-) noble prize venaam.. remember the sweets u promised.

Nilu said...

death to ......(yara solrathunnu therila)

Casement said...

Hey, namma rendu perukkum blogging ban vara pordu...nee ennada na, un wife pathu manikku endukardellam public la solra, naan veetu sandaikellam unna madhyastham panna vekren, unakku Nobel o illaio, namakku aappu waiting.

I dont think I promised any sweet.i only remember murungakka sambhar.

Hawkeye said...


try 37 :-)

Hawkeye said...


my wife has the pwd for this blog. she has told me she will delet it w/o notice anyday. so i am open to anything. its hanging by a slender thread.

Anonymous said...

athelaam seri, enakku vedas theriaathu, (dont see myself learning in the immediate future also), so why shd i do avani avittam? isnt it like attending first day of school and bunking classes for the rest of the semester?


Hawkeye said...


u shouldnt do it then

Sowmya said...

About your "testestorone increases beacause of veda recitation" theory - I asked a doctor if this is possible and he said no. But he said what is known is that body building increases testestorone and hence can bring about changes in the voice. I think the reason for not teaching women the vedas is patriarchy, avlo thaan.

Hawkeye said...


wrote a long reply but blogger screwed me.

i do not think - it is so trivial a topic (not 'women' topic but scientific/bio-mech effects of reciting slokas) to be cleared over with a casual conv with a doctor. i have seen 2 doctors literally grab each others collars on this topic.

i have read several reports on this and i think there is significant merit to at least continue research. i will fwd u some pdf docs if i can still lay my hands on them. this research was being done in bglr.

F e r r a r i said...

Atharvana Vedam is the one that deals with Black Magic(Billi(Not the cat)) etc? And that indian thaatha technique(kaLari?) etc also covered there. Kerala chettans idhula ellam thillalangadi aa?

Nilu said...

The point is, Bharath, it is almost impossible that they had any fucking clue about testosterone levels. Even if they did, we are not at a stage where we can can claim something is absolutely right or wrong.

Trying to explain your religion by such external value judgements defeats the very purpose.

Hawkeye said...

/* Trying to explain your religion by such external value judgements defeats the very purpose. */

you know! this is so true. every time i make a mental note not to do it and i do it.

i have no freakin self-control

Anonymous said...

/* Please stop justifying your religion on the basis of a rationale that is independent of the religion. It only means you accept the existence of a such system, which can in fact judge your religion. Thereby, negating your assumption at first principles. */


The rationale independent of the religion on the basis of which the religion is justified is invoked not because the religion is fucked up, but simply to explain to the audience in a language comprehensible to them. That it is one way of looking at it.

Hawkeye said...


yes! although that is the motive, the problem arises when you start playing to the rules of the language you are trying to communicate in. these rules are sometimes incongruous to the tenets of the religion.

although there is lot of scope of improvement in this logic.

Nilu said...

See, told ya!

Do these anons become blind to logic by virtue of being anonymous or do they become anonymous by virtue of being illogical?

Hawkeye said...


atharvana vedam is mostly mallu domain. but i think most of the sukthams are repeated in all 4 vedas. gayathri is repeated in all 4. there are aspects unique to athrvana and it could include the stuff you mentioned.

it is hard to get your hands on it actually.

I said...

relegion has outloved its longevity. Any analysis of it is futile and irrelevant.

Hawkeye said...



a similar dialog would come in MASH and Father Mulcahy would say "ye have little faith"

GRS said...

GRS asking,

Where the scientific innovation details with related to atharvana vedam. May be justt a initiative thing also. Anybody can give the site details.

GRS said...

Anybody can give me the site details of Scientific innovative details related with atharvana vedam.

Think Tank said...

One of the comments had questioned the timing of sama upakarma.
Actually a upa-karma can be initiated on any of the 4 days that is mentioned in their own sects. In case of Sama veda the 'Jaimini Griha Sutra' refers to 4 periods:

1. in the month of Aavani when the Shravana star occurs on an Pournami day the month of Puratasi when the Pooratathi star occurs on an Pournami day

or 3/4:either on the occurance of Aavni-Hastham or Puratasi-Pooratathi.

Astrologically 1 & 2 occurance is very very rare, so the sama vedins do it on 3rd case which is Aavni Hastham.

If someone wishes to do this year with a bit of help, here you go: