What is Avani avittam or Avaniyavattam(Palakkad lingo) or “ Upakarma and Uthsarjana”
Most of the young people call the festival of Upakarma as “ festival of Change of poonal(sacred thread) “ .THis festival is called by majority of the people as “avani avittam (Avittam(Dhanishta) star occurring in the of Avani(August –September called Chingam in Kerala)
Most of them feel that Avani avittam festival is celebrated by chanting “Kamo Karsheth” taking idli and Chutney to break fast , Changing old sacred thread to new and something called “Kanda Rishi Thrpanam “. They feel that all these can easily be accomplished before 8 AM in the morning and they can go to their school/college /office, They also know that for some reason they should not take dinner that night .
Even most learned Vadhyars cooperate with this method They start the ritual in a temple or hired hall sometime around 6 AM. The first batch is called office batch, the second one very urgent batch, and so on. Before start of the every batch , the chief vadhyar will scare you by telling you that it is the last urgent batch. This procedure would go on till around 9 Am .When males return from the function the males are supposed to be received by the ladies at home by a Harathi.
The real name of Avani avittam is Upa karma and for all the Vedas it does not come on the avittam of Avani month for example Avani avittam is celebrated on Sravana(thiruonam) day for rig vedis and Sama Vedis observe it on Hastha Nakshtram.
Upa karma consists of two parts . Upakarma( action Redemption) and Uthsarjana(giving up doing deva karyams ). These help the already learnt Vedic chants shine with great vigour. .Any actions done with such strengthened Vedic chants , would give good and better results. Due to our using Vedic chants for various purposes as well as our not being in a position to follow all the rules, make such chanting of Vedas very weak. So it is necessary to do Upakarma and Uthsarjana every year.
Naturally you would ask “When did Vedas got weak and why is it necessary to strengthen it. Vedas were created by our Supreme God and was handed over to Brahma , who taught it all Prajapathis and Devas who strengthened what they have learnt by daily chanting it Avani avittam is the day when the Supreme God gave the Vedas to Lord Brahma .Vedas get strengthened by being more and more accurate , when people who have learnt it chanted it , the way that it should be chanted.
Since most of us have not learnt to chant Vedas , we may ask “Why or how we are capable of strengthening the Vedas?”AS a Brahmin we do chant several Vedic manthras during our nithya karmas like Sandhya Vandhanas and Pithru Karmas done annually etc .If we do not do Upakarma we would be chanting the weakened Vedic Manthras only.So there is a need for each of us to do Upakarma so that the vedic Manthras that we use are powerful. You may be interested to know that sacred thread celemony(Upa nayanam) alone does not make us suitable to start learning Vedas .THis suitability comes only after our first upakarma(THalai avani avittam).
Since we are used to do Upakarma in several avasara batches starting from 6 am, WE would all be surprised to know that we should start doing it only after performing Madhyahnikam at 12 noon, followed by Brahma Yajnam
Before doing any important Vedic Karma we always change our sacred thread(Poonl/Yagnopavitham) .AS Brahmins we are supposed to learn Vedas(Vedic Uthsarjana ) daily .Since we have not been able to do it, we do ceremony of redemption and chant “Kamo karsheth” THis manthra also happens to be a manthra of redemption to all sins we have committed.
Then we chant the Maha sankalpa which tells when we are doing it and at what place and requests God to pardon the very small, small and big mistakes that we have committed during the previous year. After chanting this manthra we are supposed to take bath but what we do nowadays is a sankalpa Snana(Can’t we take bath. We definitely can ) We change the sacred thread again .Then we do Tharpanam(satify) for kandarshi (the sages of a particular Kanda(chapter) of the Vedas,.We are together then supposed to do Upakarma Homam and after that we chant the beginning of several chapters of the Vedas .This is followed by Jayadhi Homam.
I am sure when many of you who do kamakarsheth japa, Brahma Yajnam , Maha Sakalpam and Kanda Rishi tharpanam and come back home would be surprised to know that what you do is a very small portion of the Upakarma Uthsarjana Prayoga which we are supposed to do
Both ourselves(for telling Vadhyar that we need to complete Avani avitaam by 8 am) and the Vadhyar ,who cuts short the entire procedure (absolutely improper) for sake of both of us . We are committing a grave mistake. Possibly next day we have to do another Prayaschitha for doing the ritual improperly. And may be that is why we are doing Gayatri japam next day.