Monday, February 6, 2012

First and Second Milestones

In the blog "Five Milestones in Life" (Click here to read) I had made a mention of the five milestones that are widely recognized and celebrated in our part of the world.  All these five celebrations are performed and viewed in  three dimensions; religious, social and cultural event.   The normal practice in a family is that functions are arranged by the elders in the family and invitations are sent out to the guests in the name of the eldest members of the family.  An important feature of all these five Shanti Karmas is that the function is arranged by the children and grandchildren of the persons crossing the milestones.  Invitations are prepared and printed in the names of the children and distributed among the invitees.  Thus the onus for arranging such functions basically rests with the younger generation.  It is they who actually celebrate the occasion and display their pleasure in having such elders with them in the family.

The first milestone mentioned was "Ugra Ratha Shanti" and the second was "Bhima Ratha Shanti".  Both these celebrations are similar.  The first is the most commonly celebrated event and is well known in the area.  The second one is not that well known as its celebration is also rarely done.

The first milestone "Ugra Ratha Shanti" is popularly known as "Shashtabdha Poorti".  Sixty has a special significance as the Lunar cycle of computation of time has a cycle of sixty years.  The cycle starts with the year named "Prabhava" and ends with "Akshaya".  After the year "Akshaya", the cycle repeats with  the year "Prabhava".  Thus anyone born in a particular lunar calender year will complete the cycle after 60 years and starts the second cycle in the sixty-first year carrying the same name.  Thus the second innings truly starts now.  The celebration is usually done in the same month of the year on the day with the birth star or another auspicious day thereafter.  A person living for sixty years is indebted to the various elements that have supported his or her life over all these years.  The air we breathe, the water we drink, the earth which supports our life and the Sun from whom we derive the energy deserve a  "Thank you"  for the support given over the years.  Their support is required during the future years as well.  When a person completes a cycle and enters the next one, it is fair and just to thank all those who supported the past life and also seek their support during the life in the next cycle.  All the elements like Earth, Water, Air, Space and Power are believed to be controlled by "Abhimani Devatas".  There is also a debt to be repaid to the society in which we have lived and other members of the family and community who have supported us over the years.  Prayers are also held simultaneously for grant of a boon of an extended long life and prevention of untimely death.  Death is an absolute truth of life and cannot be wished away.  But death should come after living a full and fruitful life and life span should not be cut short by accidental causes, called "Apamruthyu", an untimely death.  All these "Shanti Karmas" are basically performed with this goal in mind, the one of thanking for the past favors and seeking continued support in future.

The main deity for these Shanti Karmas is "Mrutyunjaya", the name itself meaning one who has conquered death and one who helps us to overcome threats of untimely death, by his blessings. The name of Mrutyunjaya presiding over the sixty year celebration is with the name Ugra and hence the name "Ugra Ratha Shanti".  The pooja part mainly comprises of many "kalashas" in which the various abhimani devatas are invoked and worshiped.  Ganapathy Homa, Navagraha Homa and Ayushya Homa are generally part of these rituals.  At the end of the pooja, holy water from all the kalashas are sprinkled, usually using a sieve, on the main performers and their family members.    Either flowers made of gold or gold coins which were used in the pooja are placed in the sieve and hence this is also called Kanakabhisheka.  The purpose of using a sieve appears to be basically to ensure proper dispersal of the holy water to add to the festivities.  Another reason for using the sieve appears to be for protecting the valuable gold items from being washed away or misplaced.  Actually this kanakabhisheka part is common in all these five milestone rituals.  A grand feast brings up the climax of the festivities.   some cultural programmes are arranged in the evening as all family members and friends have gathered in one place.

An enjoyable and popular part of the "Ugra Ratha Shanti" is "Mangalyadharana" for the second time by the husband to the wife.  When the Mangalyadharana was done the first time in the marriage of the couple, many of the relatives, notably children and grand children were not born.  When everyone concerned is thanked for completion of the sixty year cycle, the spouse who was an integral part of the life should also be thanked!  Another "Maangalya" is tied by the husband on the wife telling her that he requests her support in the next cycle also.  This practice appears to have developed over the years.  Whatever be the logic or reason, this part is eagerly looked forward to by the participants as well as the couple.  Those who have participated in such functions know the height of celebration during this part of the function.

"Bhima Ratha Shanti" is very similar toUgra Ratha shanti and the rituals are the same.  The presiding deity in this function is Mrutyunjaya by name Bhima and hence the name Bhima Ratha Shanti.  The maangalya part is not prevalent in this function.  Very few people actually celebrate this milestone.

Two pertinent questions may arise on these celebrations.  The first is whether this is to be performed only for men or it should be done for women also.  In practice it is restricted to men when they cross sixty years or seventy years.  There is no ban to celebrate for women also.  We had conducted a similar function for our mother also when she crossed the sixty year cycle.  The second  question can be as to what should be done now if somebody has missed celebration earlier.  As the basic purpose is to celebrate the event in the company of family and friends with thanks giving for the past and prayer for for future, there appears to be no bar to celebrate the event belatedly and can be done even now.  Some couples do not like to celebrate these event for their own reasons and their discretion is to be respected.

The other three milestones are to be covered in the next lap of the journey.

7 comments:

  1. We use to attend the functions but we did not know all these, thank you.

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  2. I really liked the article which is very informative. Many aspects of these milestones were not known to me. I am really enlightened.

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  3. Implied meaning of these rituals were not known to me . Thanks for the enlightenment MrKeshava murthy

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  4. Thank you for this information

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  5. Came upon the page while googling for sample invitation for bhima ratha shanthi i had planned for my father. Loved the article. Would you be kind enough to share on how to draft the invitation.

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  6. As I underwent 60 years celebration I can visualize all your descriptions in a more clear manner. Your narration and interpretation is perfectly alright and enlightening. I was blessed to have you as my esteemed guest on that occasion.Lakshminarayana K

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