Friday, February 12, 2010


'Archanai' in any temple is a series of praises sung on the deity of the temple. The praises are usually in the form of 'alternate' names that describe attributes of the deity. Thousand or 2 thousand years ago, when Yagna Shaalas slowly transformed into the modern day temples that we see today, Archanai become a much shorter, quicker and simpler process. However, since the rules did not permit a priest (archagar/bhattar/gurukkal/bhattacharya etc) to both initiate an archanai for his own benefit and also perform the archanai himself (and this is taught to the priest during his schooling), the olden day priest waited for a bhaktha to come and initiate an archanai. This practice continues until today.

In both the Yagna Shaala archanai and a temple archanai, once the priest receives a request, he proceeds to do what is called a "Sankalpam". The priest asks the bhaktha to introduce himself: "who is initiating this session of praise for the Lord and what is the purpose". The Bhaktha dutifully answered their name and purpose. [Interesting side-note is that in the last 20-30 years Brahmins have names that are very different from their 'Dasya' name - a name kept during Upanayanam. I have seen some very elderly priests get irritated and ask "Rajesh'a evanda avan 'rajesh'? Nithyasoori peyara idhu?". and it is hilarious to see the confusion and terror in Rajesh's face as he tries to figure out what is being asked of him. I have been in that situation and had to be helped out]. Since today's bhakthas don't have a clue as to why they are initiating an Archanai, the priest does a "Recommended Settings" Archanai with "Dheerya, Dhairya, Vijaya, Arogya, Aishwarya .... abhiVridhYartham" as the purpose.

Observations on the answers to the "who is initiating the archanai" is interesting. I recently saw an elderly 'vidhvith' (who was substituting as a priest) get totally confused by an answer and had to be told what it meant. And the consequent thought-train is what led me to this post. It is hard to imagine what a priest's assessment would be of the differences between the 'theory' they learnt in school vs what is actually in practice. But we can always hazard a guess. In a modern-day temple, the priest puts a plate in front of the Bhaktha and says "peyar naksathram sollungo" (introduce yourself). In the last few decades responses such as "Perumaal peyarukke pannungo" or "Saami peyarukke pannidunga iyere" etc have started coming from the Bhakthas. After the incident referred above, I realized after mulling about it for a few months that such a response really may not the answer the question. The archanai or praise was always going to be for the God. There was never any question about that. Unless the Bhaktha presumptuously thought there was a possibility that the priest would sing 10/28/108/1008 words in the Bhaktha's praise, he need not remind the priest who this archanai is for. The question was always "who is initiating this archanai". Answering it as "God" is kinda vague/stating the obvious/being recursive unless the bhaktha is deeply philosophical and is indicating that his 'antharyamin' is the trigger. It is a totally different question whether this Bhaktha does not want to gain any benefits out of this. Stating that to the priest would save the "dheerga... dhairya.." etc that follows.

I guess my train of thought was along the lines of the amount of variations we have internalized over time, that we don't even know about. It would be an interesting exercise to see what would happen if a priest was transported to this day and age from (lets say 1250 A.D.) or - if we were transported back to that time.


Hawkeye said...

Please avoid 'sappi' cliche comments like "archagar is focusing on money wonly" .. "it is all business today" etc etc. I disagree with this view... And such comments will be deleted because they are not relevant to the post.

I said...

ada ada. get a TVS 50, grow a beer belly and buy the vethala pogayala. You are all set.

Sreekrishnan said...

Precisely my question sometime back in Sathyanarayana temple in West Mambalam. If Archanai is a praise of god and the only thing that we do is undersigning by referring the initiator - you cannot say Perumal Paerleye. That Means you are making God sing his own praise !

Its Not even vague - its wrong !
In Kerala, they dont ask your name or nakshathram at times - they call it "Pushpanjali" which is an offering to the god with flowers assumed to have initiated by the Bhaktas in common ! If they do ask, the initiator is not referred to outside the Sannidhi, but inside - along with the Pushpanjali.

I wasnt sure then, i was ask to shut up ! Thank you !

Gradwolf said...

Oh I've overheard a similar lecture on how Swami ke archanai pannungo is not a good practice by an elderly mama in Ayodhya Mandapam.

Sriram Murali said...

My two cents. samkalpam by the pure definition of the word would only mean an announcement of a firm determination to do an act, in this case an archanai or a series of praises of the God and from when/where the personal notifications/needs seeped in is quite a question in itself. The fact that samkalpam doesn't have to do anything with such details is more than evident in any other vaidika samkalpam and the ones from nithya karmA (aka) sandhyAvandhanam (SrI bhagavatah AgnyayA SrIman nArAyaNa prItyartam or any other variants for that matter) for they don't include such introductions in general. So the question of "who initiates" is in essence nullified.

The other reason for it to be nullified is on the grounds of philosophy(ofc, not all philosophies truly stick to this) wherein the question of "I ask him for X,Y,Z" is not accepted (but for peruvIdu/mOksham which is totally the one thing anyone should ask for). This is quite strongly condemned in SrIvaishNAvam (not exactly sure about the others since they differ in the essential epistemological explanations and such). As for, "perumAL pErlayE...", it is right if the understanding samkalpam is essentially "a notification of undertaking an act for the pleasure of someone" and the someone in the actual sense being perumAL making it adhere to sampradayam where any act is for his pleasure is present.

vElAmUr tirumangalam ammangi SrIrAm murali

Dilip Muralidaran said...

nice article. never had any idea as to why "swami peyarileye" makes sense in a temple since it was for the swami anyways.

on an offtrack note i would like to clarify with @HawkEye why he thinks the view priests are not working for monetary gain is something not agreeable. my observation tells me otherwise.

I would like an email response since the author is going to delete my comment anyways. I would be much obliged to receive an explanation.

Idling in Top Gear said...

Perhaps it is an application of the "Aham Brahmasmi" principle. :D

Anonymous said...

Good post man - Venkat (not the troll Venkat who plagues these comment boards)

WA said...

Did someone just compare you to an old mama in ayodhya mandapam? :) nice post hawkeye, more please

Hawkeye said...


pulsar is the new TVS 50.


"That Means you are making God sing his own praise"

Exactly. Made the same argument in many places and got several 'scratching heads' which gave me courage to post it in a blog.


whereas thamizh calendars in their 'tips for bhakthargal' section alernatively recommend for and against 'swami'ke archanai'

sriram Murali,

So you end the Sandhyavandhanam with a couple of 'abhivadhye' as you say "i succesfsully completed prathaha sandhya for fullflling my karma, for your pleasure etc etc" . So an introduction exists in some form or the other.

In an archanai that you don't do yourself, such details are obtained by the priest.

On your other point, by virtue of limiting the scope to people who do archanai, I have kept prapannans out of the equation. You are referring to a case where someone is doing something they are not required to do.


ok. sure.


yes! and those who have realized it shouldn't do archanai :-)


thanks :-)


thanks . andha 'I' paiyyan kadakkaran.

RamMmm said...

Deep thought?

I thought that the aspect of an archanai was indirectly asking favours/request for the initiator (wealth, health, for you/someone, some vaendudhal) while hearing the glory of God via archanai. So when you say, 'swamikkaey archanai', that presumption is broken. It is only that you want to hear the praises sung. You kind of hinted at it as well.

MaySan said...

Nice one :) We have been told that we can have our Acharyan as the initiator instead of us - thus having him speak for us, which is what Srivaishnava Sampradayam says.

Ramki said...

A similar point of interest is the location identification in the long form sankalpam, if you happen to live outside India. Recently, I was super amused to hear the archakar actually claim he was in "Kapilaranya Kshetram," for California. What started as a email hoax has wormed its way into our oaths before Gods!

PrakashSaptagiri said...

Interesting, I guess Sri Velukkudi Krishnan swami once talked about this topic of archanai in one of his kalashepam , I don’t remember it completely but I do know he was telling that while asking for doing archanai in a temple it is not advisable to recite your kulam gothram to the bhattacharya for the archanai as it portrays as if perumal needs an introduction as to who has come to do the archanai and perumal being the paramporul does not need to be told who has come to praise him. The part I don’t remember is what was his take on using ‘perumal parukaa archanai’.

I personally felt ‘perumal parukaa’ could be interpreted as dedicating any archana palan to the perumal itself but that seems to be what you are stating as “totally different”.

I would try to find that audio sometime this week, thanks for stirring this thought, would really like to know proper meaning and the correct procedure to be followed.

Hawkeye said...


yes :-)


"no archanai for you" (said in rhym with "no soup for you"). :-). Yathi does not initiate an archanai! no?


i have only heard krounche dwepe Vs Jambu Dwepe, this is tottally new to me


It is hard to argue what needs to be explcitly spelled out Introduction (or) purpose. At an extreme end you need not say anything at all on the other side rituals need to be honored.

MaySan said...

Yathi acharyas are not common in Thenkalais, so I am not sure :( Will check it out and let you know.

Kana.S.D. said...

OMG! Does that mean I've been doing it wrong all the time? But the priest over here* always asks me 'yaarukku archanai?' to which I've been dumbfully replying all these while 'Pillaiyarukke pannidunga'.And now he's so used to see me and my reply he instead asks me 'Pillaiyarukku thane?'.What a fool I am.Btw,here refers to Malaysia.

Kaushik said...

>> What is surprising is that present-day Vaadhyaars either dont know or havent cared to explain the "Swamikke archanai pannidungo" anomaly.
>> @Ramki
Absolutely! Once during Avani Avittam, Vaadhyaar mama made me say - "Krouncha Dweepe Ramanaka Varshe Aindra Khande Prasantha Saagare Pushkara Kshetre Rocky - mickelny Parvatayor Madhye Mickelny
Misissipi- Missouri Ityadhi Aneka Shodasa Jeeva Nadeenam sameepa stite..."
I was almost ROTFL at Rocky/Mickelny/Missippi-Missouri. Intelligently, they've translated Pacific to "Prasantha" :D
>> Aside (sorry for the deviation), I've been a bit intrigued/confused with the Archagar asking the devotees to repeat the Sankalpam. Obviously, I've never seen this in India, but it's almost a regular feature in Aurora. For one, there will almost always be a mispronounciation and two, I thought the posture esp. for Sankalpam was as important as the Mantras themselves. I know the Archagar was prob. trying to involve the (IHO more-sincere-&-intellectual-than-folks-back-home) Bhaktaas, but I just couldn't help nitpicking. :D Thoughts on this saar?
(Oh and btw I already asked you once, can you please include an email subscription? Though I'm a BJP-supporter, I find RSS very very inconvenient.)

Sarang said...

My impression with "Perumal peyarukke" archanai, has always been that doing so, is giving up my personal phalam as a result of performing archanai...

An interesting point anyway..


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