An article by Levina
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A grandmother reading Ramayana to a child in Kerala, pic credit: madhyamam
In a week from now the holy month of Ramayana will commence, when reading the holy book, visiting Lord Shri Ram’s temple and following certain immunity boosting habits, are part of life for those facing the wrath of monsoon in the southern part of India. In this season it is common for every household to have aushdha kanji (porridge made of herbal medicines) and to chant Ramayana. Hindu festivals and traditions always have astronomical and scientific significance to them, this is why it is believed that Hinduism is a way of life. But let us explore how is this month related to Lord Ram.
The month of Ramayana and it’s association with Shri Ram
Every year, monsoons first hit the state of Kerala and then the season of rain spreads along the Nilgiri hills and Deccan plateau to rest of the Indian subcontinent. This season is called Karkidakkam in Malayalam. The heavy precipitation helps in replenishing the water bodies and surging the ground water-table, but simultaneously it hits the normalcy of life. Monsoons in Kerala are associated with heavy rainfall, inundated farms, floods and poor business, this is why the month earns the name panja masam (the lean month). Ergo, the tradition is to chant Ramayana during this month to help one tide through the harsh weather. It is believed that if one were to start reading Ramayana at the onset of this month and finish the book by the end of it, then Lord Ram (an avatar of Lord Vishnu) blesses the devotee with benevolence. So a week before the monsoon, the preparation begins–the houses are cleaned and the shrubs and bushes are pruned. This so because rainfall surges the growth of vegetation, along with it the fungi on the wall and the larvae in the ponds. Fertility is always associated with this season, be it of the snakes, frogs, or the bacteria.
Monsoons of Kerala, pic credit:ipinimg
A house boat in Kerala, pic credit : the economic times
Once Karkidakam begins every evening family members gather around a lamp to read Ramayana, this is an ancient Indian scripture written by sage Valmiki. It is believed by doing so, the sagacity hidden in the scripture is passed on to the devotees of Shri Ram and helps them achieve tranquility of mind. This is an old aphorism at play—an idle mind is a devil’s workshop; the mind of a person sans any work or anything to keep it busy, finds solace in activities which might be momentarily thrilling but otherwise uncouth. This is why our sages asked us to take inspiration from Maryada Purushottam –the honourable and righteous man–Shri ram himself. This is also why this season is called Ramayana masam (month of Ramayana).
Shri Ram with Sita, pic credit: Vimanika arts
An elderly lady reading Ramayana out loud to children, pic crediy: The week
The visit to 4 temples of Shri Ram and his 3 brothers
Shri Ram is the 7th and most popular avatar of Lord Vishnu, among other incarnations are Shri Krishna and Parshurama. It is customary in Kerala to visit the 4 temples dedicated to Shri Ram and his 3 brothers—Bharat, Laxman and Shatrughan, during the Karikidakkam season. The devotees first visit the eldest brother Shri Ram’s temple located in Thriprayar, and then to Bharat’s temple in Koodalmanikyam, next they head to Laxman’s temple in Moozhikkulam, and then finally to Shatrughan’s temple in Payyammal. This is called naal-ambalam darshanam (visit to four temples).
Thriprayar temple, pic credit: ipinimg
Located by the river side is the Shri Ram’s temple in Thriprayar with a life size idol of the deity. The six feet tall idol of Shri Ram is placed inside a circular Girbhagraha (sanctum sanctorum), who has Shri Devi and Bhoomi Devi (represents mother earth) by his side. The folklore says, the idol of the temple could be atleast 5000 years old as Shri Ram’s idol was originally worshiped by Lord Krishna in Dwaraka (present Gujarat coast) but later when Dwaraka was flooded, the idol remained under water for long till it was found by few fishermen in Kerala who presented it to the local ruler. Vakkayil Kaimal, the local ruler, then established all the 4 temples not very far away from one another. But out of the 4 temples, Shri Ram’s temple in Thriprayar is the most famous.
Thriprayar temple is unique in many ways, one of the offerings at the temple includes feeding the fish as it is by the river side. It is a reminder that Hinduism or ancient Sanatana Dharma as it was referred to earlier, has always been about protecting nature.
The western entrance of the Thriprayar temple, pic credit: thriprayarinsta
Another interesting fact about this temple is– that there’s an annual celebration called Sethu-bandhanam, celebrated in the memory of building of the stone bridge– Ram Setu (also called Adam’s bridge), which connected India and Sri Lanka in ancient times. Such celebrations are proof that Ramayana is not a mythological story but a part of the history of the Indian subcontinent. You can read more about how old Ramayana is, in this link.
Ram setu bridge, pic credit: themysteriousindia
The astronomical and Ayurvedic significance of Ramayana masam
Karkidakka masam or the month of Ramayana coincides with the Dakshinayana, the southern transit of Sun. To simplify it further—each year is divided into ayana of 6 months. This the period when the Sun moves between tropic of Cancer and Capricorn. The northern transit of Sun or Uttarayana begins on Makarsankranti festival in January, and ends in July when Sun begins it’s southern transit for next 6 months. This southern transit of Sun is called Dakshinayana and it is associated with longer nights. This cycle keeps repeating every year. It is believed that while Sun is in southern transit, the activities related to our ancestors benefit us, while northern transit of Sun is associated with Gods. You can understand this better from the following video.
Ayana means a path or a period.
So Dakshinayana means Dakshin (south) + ayana (period). Similarly Ramayana means Ram + ayana, or Shri Ram’s path.
During the new moon/ Amavasya of Karkidakkam, followers of Hinduism perform rituals dedicated to the deceased members of the family, also called Bali-darpanam.
Performing the Balidarpanam. Pic credit: eastcoastdaily.in
Heavy rainfall is associated with poor health and infections, that is why in the Karkidakka masam it is recommended to have vegetarian diet and Ayurvedic treatments for cleansing the body and mind.
It is common in Kerala to cook a special porridge made of herbal plants, cereals and jaggery. This is called Karkidakka kanji (porridge) which is an immunity booster. To this day, Karkkidaka Kanji is served throughout the month at many temples. While food lighter on the digestive system is considered fine during this period, leafy vegetables like muringa (drumstick tree) leaves and spinach are not consumed in this period.
Karkidakka masam is the last Hindu month of the calendar, ergo auspicious activities like marriages are avoided during this month. These days all the Malayalam channels air Ramayana paranam (chanting) in the morning and in evening. Like they say –there’ always a storm before a rainbow, similarly a karkidakka masam is followed by the celebration of Onam and once again nature and people shake in mirth. It is amazing how ancient Santanis were so well versed with the impact of vacillating astronomical positions of planets & Sun on our lives.
Onam celebrations, Pic credit: gift-basket.chiroscuro
An article by Levina
Copying the article or an excerpt without giving due credit to the website and author will be considered an infringement of copyright.
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