Thursday, June 9, 2016

Achamanam- procedure of purification



Achamanam- procedure  of purification.

Compiled  by

P.R.Ramachander

   I am not a vedic Scholar nor I have  been able to read  the book  on Achamanam  written by  the great Vedic Scholar   Sri Sharma  Sastrigal. Yesterday  I decided   to collect   some information   and write a  small essay  on it. The Samkshepa Dharma Sastra published  as per the orders of Maha Periyavaa  and
The Wikipedia  on Achamanam  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achamana )  are my main sources  of information. I humbly  express my acknowledgements and gratefulness   to these sources. There is a video  of the Achamana procedure  recommended by  ISCKON  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELkEHRnIFTg )  and another video again from Vaishnavite source with very detailed procedure  of Achamanam (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bU2RWGmzhv0  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGYnWiNW2NA )

          Right  from the day  I started  doing Achamanam , there  was a great  doubt  in my mind . While doing Achamanam, we use  names  of Lord Krishna  , who is not even mentioned  in the Vedas . So I felt that  Achamana  is not a Vedic rite. My  doubt was  cleared yesterday when I came   to know   that  there  are more than one  Achamana  sampradhaya –one which is Vedic and another called  Pauranic.  We have all been  doing the Pauranic  Achamana    and  not the Vedic one. It is interesting to note that Lord  Rama   before chanting  Adhithya  Hrudaya did Achamana  thrice   and after the  Japa he killed  Ravana. (This Achamana  would not be   the one we are doing as  Lord Krishna  was not known during those  times) Not being a  Vedic Scholar  nor  one who is an expert  on Brahmin   rituals  , I had to  depend on what  others   have   said about  it.

The Samkshepa  Dharma Sastra  , a summary   of rituals  of Brahmins  has one chapter  on Achamanas.I am reproducing here that chapter as translated by me:-

 Achamana Vidhi:-
(Rules for inner cleaning)

1,Vyasa:-
Wash your hands and legs and face , keep the sacred thread in normal position, and keeping both hands in between the knees , we have to do Achamana. Then we have to clean the teeth.
Make your right hand in the shape of the ear of the cow , and take water three times, Then wipe your lips twice.
Keeping the thumb and little finger open and folding the other three fingers , you have to drink the water, This is called the Achamana method.,
Every time you have to take water sufficient to drown a single grain of black gram.

2.Manu:-
Achamana should be done using Brahma theertha which is not hot , facing east or north . For getting clean we should bathe in water reaching up to the chest in case of Brahmins, reaching up to the neck in case of Kshatriyas, reaching up to the mouth in case of Vysyas and reaching up to the bottom of the mouth in case of Shudhras and ladies .

3.Mareechi:-
Achamana should not be done standing or firmly sitting or with hands held outside the knees. Immediately after meals Achamana can be done sitting firmly on the earth. You should not Achamaneeyam with upper cloth worn on one side of the body or with cloth hiding the shoulders. It should also not be done without sacred thread, wearing dirty cloths and not tying the hair. All activities following such wrong Achamana need to be repeated again. If Achamanas are done facing south or west , then we need to take bath again and do Achamanam again.

4.Yama:-
While doing Achamana we have to touch water (pot or river) with the left hand. This is because in the left hand live the twelve Adithyas as well as Varuna the lord of water,
Water in the Bronze vessel, copper vessel and silver vessel is always pure. So you have to hold the Udharani ( ceremonial spoon) and take the water from the vessel and pour it in the right hand and do Achamana. Taking it directly by the left hand is considered equivalent to drinking of Alcohol.

5.Manu:-
Brahman should always do Achamana using Brahma Theertha , He can also do it using Rishi theertha and Deva theertha but he should never do it using Pithru theertha.
This classification is based on where we hold the water in the right hand. If we hold it just below the thumb it is Brahma Theertha. If it is held just below the little finger it is Rishi Theertha and at the edge of four fingers , then it is Deva theertha. If it is held between the thumb and the first finger , it is called Pithru Theertha.

6.Sounaka:-
The water has to be taken after washing the hand and legs. The water that we see clearly should be used. The water which can just drown a black gram should be taken and it is sufficient if it reaches up to the chest.
After the Achamana, we have to close our lips and wipe the mouth by the base of the thumb twice. Then we have to touch the mouth by all fingers held together.
It is said after this all organs should be touched by the fingers. We drink the water saying Achyuthaya Nama, Anathaya Nama and Kesavaya Nama and touch the organs using fingers chanting the 12 names of Vishnu. This method has been taught by our elders. We should touch our eyes using thumb and first finger, touch the nose using the thumb and the third finger, touch the ears with thumb and the little finger, touch the shoulders using the thumb and the second finger, touch the belly button using the thumb , touch the chest using three fingers and touch the head with all fingers. There can be differences in this rules. The family tradition has to be followed.
Achamana can be performed standing in water but should not be done in water if the depth of water is below our knees.

7,Samvartha:-
Achamana must be performed after bath , after taking food , after drinking fluids, after sneezing and after sleep.
If during chanting of mantra, we happen to see anything dirty, Achamana should be performed and chanting recommenced.

8.Parasara:-
Manu and Parasara are of the opinion that the sacred waters of Prabhasa, the ganges , Sun, Varuna , Chandra, Fire and wind are always in the right ear of a Brahmin.
If we are not able to do Achamana, or if we are not able to get water for Achamana when we have to do Achamana , we need only to touch our right ear. This is equivalent to Achamana. During meals, Homa, taking of alms , eating , or giving of alms, we need to perform Achamana twice.

9.Markandeya:-
After eating mango , sugar cane piece , betel leaf and Soma Pana, there is no need to do Achamana. After taking the Vishnu Pada Theertha also Achamana should not be performed. You should not wash your hand in this case.

1.Achamana the ritual
      Achamana  is a ritual prescribed   for inner purification of persons . It consists  of taking  very minute  quantity of water  in the Brahma Granthi  of the right hand  , and swallowing it three  times chanting  a prayer  .Once  this taking of water  is over , then different specified  parts  of the  body above   the waist   are   touched by  prescribed fingers.

2.Place  and posture
    Achamana should always  be performed  sitting on the  clean ground . The posture  unlike other rituals  is not on the lotus pose  but Kukkuta (cock pose) , i.e  sitting down  on the  soles of the feet .It is done always facing  the north   or east., The hands of   the person doing it should  be in between his knees. The water   taken in the hand should be pure, should not be hot nor scented and should not have   been touched  by hands. The right hand should be kept in such a way   that  forefinger  , middle finger  and  ring finger   are together   and slightly bent upwards. The little finger and thumb should be separated from these  three  fingers. Using the sacrificial spoon  (Udharani)   water should be taken by the   left hand and poured  in the right hand. The water  thus poured should be held just  below the thumb.

3.Quantity of water
       It is prescribed that   we should take a  very small  quantity of water , just sufficient  to drown  a black gram. Water   should never be sipped  but always   swallowed.

4,Procedure
       There   are two main types  of Achamanam- Sroutha(based on Sruthi)   and Pouranika  (Based  on Puranas).Pauranika   Achamanam   is also called  smartha achamana.

a.Pauranika Aachamanam

       This is the most popular  Achamanam  among Tamil Brahmins

Take   water   as described  above , swallow   it  three  times after saying  the following:-

1.Achyutaya Namaha (In the Name of the Innumerable Lord)
2,Anantaya Namaha (In the Name of the Infinite Lord)
3.Govindaya Namaha (In the name of Lord Govinda)
 
After  that  say  the following 12 names of the Lord  and touch  places mentioned  by  using the fingers  mentioned

1.Keshavaya Namaha - Thumb to touch the right cheek
2.Narayanaya Namaha - Thumb, left cheek
3.Madhavaya Namaha - Ring finger, right eye
4.Govindaya Namaha - Ring finger, left eye
5.Vishnave Namaha - Index finger, left side of the nose
6.Madhusudhanaya Namaha - Index finger, right side of the nose
7.Trivikramaya Namaha - little finger, right ear
8.Vamanaya Namaha - little finger, left ear
9.Shridharaya Namaha - third (middle) finger, right shoulder
10.Hrishikeshaya Namaha - third finger, left shoulder
11.Padmanabhaya Namaha - four fingers (hand with thumb folded inwards), navel
12.Damodaraya Namaha - four fingers, head.

     Note:- While doing Achamana we have to touch water (pot or river) with the left hand. This is because in the left hand live the twelve Adithyas as well as Varuna the lord of water,
  (Note all the  God’s names are those  of Lord Vishnu  or Lord Krishna . There are no names  of any other  Avathara of Vishnu  including Sri Rama . As the thumb and the mouth are the seats of fire,, the name ( Kesava) and(Narayana) are uttered with the thumb touching the right and left cheeksrespectively. The second finger and the eyes are regarded as the seats of the sun and so with the second finger the right and left eyes are touched, repeating the names (Madhava) and (Govinda).  The forefinger and the nose, being considered as seats of Vayu (Wind) the right and left parts of the nose are touched by the forefinger with the names (Vishnu) and(Madhusoodana) being repeated respectively.  The little finger and the ears are seats of Indra and hence by the little finger the right and left ears are touched uttering the names (Trivikrama) and(Vamana) respectively. )


 Some people  follow 12  more names  of the God
1.Sankarshanaya namaha
2.Vasudevaya namaha
3.Pradyumnaya namaha
4.Anirudhaya namaha
5.Purushothamaya namaha
6.Adhokshajaya namaha
7.Narasimhaya namaha
8.Achyutaya namaha
9.Janardanaya namaha
10.Upendraya namaha
11.Hariye namaha
12.Sri krishnaya namaha
   (It is believed that  these  24 names   are the most important names  of  Vishnu  SAhasranama)
b. Pauranika  Achamanam-Type II –I found it in a Telugu  web site)

Swallow water  as mentioned before chanting  :-
Om Kesavaaya Swaaha
Om Naarayanaaya Swaaha
Om Madavaaya Swaaha

This  should be  followed by cleansing your hand with little water uttering "Om Govindaaya Namaha"

This is followed by repeating the  following names   , doing the acts  indicated.
Govindaya Namaha
Vishnave Namaha
(Both the hands are washed)
Madhusudhanaya Namaha
Thrivikramaya Namaha
(Both the upper and lower lips are touched with the right hand fingers)

Vamanaya Namaha
Sridharaya Namaha
(Left and right cheeks are touched)

Hrusheekesaya Namaha (Hands are touched)
Padmanabhaya Namaha (Sprinkle water on the feet)
Damodaraya Namaha (Centre of the head is touched with middle finger)
Sankarshanaya Namaha (Edge of the nose is touched with the fist)
Vasudevaya Namaha
Pradhyumnaya Namaha
(Left and right nostrils are touched)
Aniruddhaya Namaha
Purushothamaya Namaha
(Right and left eyes are touched)
Adhokshajaya Namaha
Narasimhaya Namaha
(Right and left ears are touched)
Achyutaya Namaha (Navel portion is touched)
Janardhanaya Namaha (Chest is touched)
Upendraya Namaha (Head is touched)
Hariye Namaha
Sri Krishnaya Namaha (Right and left shoulders are touched)

c.Sroutha(smrithi )  Achamana
Here the water is swallowed by chanting 
1.Tát savitúr váreṇyaṃ
2.Bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
3.Dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyāt
   There are three  parts of the Gayathri manthra. I could not get any more  information   about this form of Achamana   except that  when doing  Brahma Yagna  , this form of Achamanam  is preferable.
d. Shortcut in  circumstances  where water is not available?
There is one more type of Aachamanam in vogue. It often happens that though we need to purify ourselves through Aachamanam, no water is available at the time and place. In such situations, the scripts prescribes an easy method of purification, that of touching the tip of the nose and then the right ear, uttering the Pranava mantra. It is based on the Scriptural texts, which says that Agni resides in the Brahmana’s nose tip and holy rivers like the Ganga in his right ear. Hence touching these two purifies a person immediately. We would have observed our elders reciting names of God (Krishna, Govinda etc.) whenever they sneeze or yawn. Perhaps this is with respect to the above principle. It is to be noted that this short cut is to be adopted only when performing the regular Aachamanam is not possible.
5.When to perform Aachamana
   No ritual not preceded by   aachamanam gives useful results.. It is said “Anachamyakritham yachha yachha sankalpa varjitham, rakshasam thatbhaveth.” Meaning   “Any ritual not preceded by  Aachamanam or SAnkalpa  becomes only an act of Rakshasa”

a.As a preliminary to all nitya and naimittika karmas (daily and occasional rituals) like b.Sandhyavandanam, Brahmayagyam, Vedadhyayanam, Pitrutarpanam Mantra japam etc.
c.Immediately after waking up in the morning
d.After urination and other forms of excretion
e,After brushing one’s teeth
f.Before and after a bath
g.After wearing clothes
h.Before and after a meal
i.Speaking with or touching unsuitable persons, after telling a lie
j.Before and after giving or accepting alms or donation
k.After sneezing, shedding tears or blood
l.Upon physical contact with women
m.Before and after crossing a river
n. If during chanting of mantra, we happen to see anything dirty, Achamana should be performed and chanting recommenced.
o.During meals, Homa, taking of alms , eating , or giving of alms, we need to perform Achamana twice.



6.When not to do Achamanam
Aachamanam is not to be done immediately after taking prasadam or sipping theertha as these are holy and pure and the symbolic act of purifying oneself through aachamanam insults their holiness. After eating mango , sugar cane piece , betel leaf and Soma Pana, there is no need to do Achamana. After taking the Vishnu Pada Theertha also Achamana should not be performed. You should not wash your hand in this case.
7.How not to do Aachamana?

a.Achamana should not be done standing or firmly sitting or with hands held outside the knees. Immediately after meals Achamana can be done sitting firmly on the earth. You should not Achamaneeyam with upper cloth worn on one side of the body or with cloth hiding the shoulders. It should also not be done without sacred thread, wearing dirty cloths and not tying the hair. All activities following such wrong Achamana need to be repeated again. If Achamanas are done facing south or west , then we need to take bath again and do Achamanam again

b.Aachamanam is not to be done in a standing position (exception: one may perform aachamana while standing if one is in water which is above the knees but below the navel)

c.Aachamanam is not to be done facing the west or the south, but always facing the east or the north.

c.Aachamanam should not be done with impure or falling water, as from a tap or rain, but usually with water from a river or tank, or from a vessel held in the left hand. When doing this in a river or tank, the left hand should be touching the water.

d.It should not be performed casually, while speaking to others, wearing a shirt or footwear, with a covered head, with laughter etc., but with devotion, and with the consciousness that one is uttering the holy names of the Almighty, which purify and protect.

e.Aachamanam should not be done while wearing a Pavithram. While performing an aachamanam, the pavithram should be kept in the gap between the right ear lobe and the head. This is perhaps meant to avoid the sharp ends of the pavithram hurting the eyes
8.Some important  information  about  Aachamana
a.A Brahmin becomes purified by  Aachamana  when the water swallowed reaches  the heart, A kshatriya  when it reaches the throat  , a Vaishya when it reaches the palate  and a Shudhra  or a lady when it touches   their lips.




7 comments:

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  7. I have been reading various posts and valuable translations of our scripture I am 74 - a Yoga teacher - now doing MSc in Yoga Therapy from SVYASA, here we need to study veda, upanishads and other scripture as part of our curriculum. I find your work quite helpful. Thanks.

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