S: Jai and Rishi 's Upanayanam Feb 19, 2012
1: You're Invited!
2: Poonal | Kalyanam
5: Kumaras on a spiritual path to become ..... | Brahmacharis
6: It was with a lot of excitement and joy that we celebrated the Upanayanam of our sons, Jai and Rishi in our home in Austin Texas , on the 19th of February, 2012. As such, an event like the Upanayanam is an elaborate and time consuming affair in terms of planning . In our case, since all the arrangements had to be done by us , it was even more exhausting. Each ceremony had to be planned carefully ,a lot of thinking and discussions and suggestions went into planning each little event , but there was much joy and satisfaction we experienced in our role as self-appointed " Event Planners" for our sons poonal. | The Prasadh family Upanayanam : Memories and Musings
7: Once we set the date of the Upanayanam, we prepared a list prioritizing the things to do and marked the date by which each activity should be done. This list was getting updated every day. Next was picking the venue. We decided to conduct the ceremony in our home per our Vadhyar's recommendation. By mid-December, the invitation cards that were printed in-home were ready. The guest list was prepared. By end of December, invitations had been sent and acknowledged. Travel arrangements had been communicated to us by most of our family. We had a fair idea of the number of outstation guests who would be attending the celebration and accordingly accommodation plans were being made. Most of the items needed for the Poonal were purchased, packaged neatly , and sent with us by Shri Uma Maheshwara Shastrigal when we went to India in Aug 2011 like silver items, veshtis, gold/silver poonal, Sandhya Vandhanam book etc. The remaining items were bought by Guru during his trip to Bangalore in December 2011. Details of catering, flowers, malai, photography and other little things were yet to be worked out.
8: On January 7th, Canada thatha and paati arrived and soon after , we involved them in planning the menu for the big day , among other things. In the weeks that followed, pakshanam arrangements were made with Uduppa mama ( Pittsburgh Temple) and the very lovely Saroja mami from New Jersey. The maalai and flowers were ordered from Fancy Florists. Last minute briefings and arrangements with our vadhyar happened as scheduled. As the D day was approaching ,we were almost ready with all the preparations and plans and moves and what should be done whens and who should be doing whats and where . And yet there were things that could be done only on the given day and we made sure everything was well planned. On February 4th, Ammani paati arrived from Seattle and immersed herself immediately in all the festivities including making home made mango pickle and pulikachal with Guru’s mom. Mysorepak has been a very popular sweet for the cheeru, so that became my sole culinary contribution. .Also, recreating a dish my Paati lovingly prepared for us was therapeutic and had us reminiscing about the joyous moments we shared with Paati , surrounded by her love and blessing . Our guests from outside Austin started arriving on the 16th of February. All meals were arranged at home catered from the very talented team of Saraswati mami and Prema mami. . The whole house was bursting with activity with so many people to help around. Chitra mami whipped up her famous delicacy, theratipal , which was enjoyed by all after Nandhi. On the afternoon of the 18th was the Mehendi ceremony. Priya Chithi brought with her some mehendi cones and was very excited about getting the mehendi applied for the children, especially the guests of honor, Jai and Rishi. In the spirit of the celebration, Jai and Rishi along with all their cousins which included boys who would not have been convinced to participate at any other time, were very cooperative in letting the mothers and aunts indulge in this traditional ritual.
10: Decorating the front of our house with strings of lights seemed a great way to get in the spirit of festivity and celebration
13: It was pure happiness to be surrounded by all of our family and friends during this very special celebration. The great day arrived, and luckily we had beautiful weather during the muhurtham . As Guru whispered the Gayatri mantra (Brahmopadesam) to our older son, Jai, this rite was performed by my father-in-law for our younger son, Rishi. Blessings were showered upon the boys by all. On this most special milestone in our lives, we lovingly remembered those close to our hearts who are no longer with us, knowing they are always with us in spirit. We were very glad that all the functions went extremely well and we were able to take good care of the guests. Apart from the customary feast, we also had Thamboolam that included the murukku, laddoo and mysore-pak for all the guests. Everyone started taking leave one by one from that evening with loads and loads of happy memories of the past few days.
15: Paati's Kolam | Kolams are a primary part of south Indian tradition, for any function or festival. Canada Paati has been known for her free scale designs in kolam Though it’s just 2 coloured, it just looks so pleasing for the eyes! | They look so simple, but the symmetry is something that one might spend hours figuring out, but wih her talent, it just happens. These pics can better explain than words how artistic Paati is!
16: Mehendi Ceremony
21: Saturday, February 18, 2012 'Naandhi' Ceremony and Udakashanthi | Naandhi is performed generally just a day before the Upanayanam to obtain the blessings of the family ancestors. Naandi in Sanskrit means the beginning, so with Naandi begins the actual rituals for the functions. Udhakashanthi is conducted for the purification of the mind and body and the protection of the boys. All names of the deities are chanted in the form of manthras and invoked in water and then the water is sprinkled on the boys with a mango leaf.
22: Getting ready for the Naandhi ceremony
25: Garlanding ceremony Sriram mama and Mahesh Chitappa place flower maalai's on Jai and Rishi
36: Sprinkling of Paligai
37: Paligai are earthern pots ( we used compostable seed starter pots) that hold nine kinds of pre soaked grains which are ceremoniously sown in these pots by sumangalis. After the Upanayanam, the sprouted seedlings are released in a river or a natural stream. This ritual invokes the blessing of the eight direction quartered guardian angels (Ashtadikh Paalaks) for a long and healthy life for Jai and Rishi
39: Sweet as can be ! | Cousins Neha and Laasya Gorgeous , Silly, Cute ,Super smart and Adorable
47: The Naandhi ceremony concludes with Jai and Rishi doing namaskarams to their grand parents, parents, uncles , aunts and also to each of the elders present and get their blessings. Thamboolam bags containing veshtis and silver items and clothes for the kids were given to all the friends and relatives.
48: Upanayanam also called "sacred thread ceremony" and poonal in tamil, is a ritual where a young boy is introduced to spiritual practices with a sacred thread and the Gayathri Manthra . The thread contains three strands, to remind him that purity of his thoughts, words and deeds is of utmost importance. The three strands also represent the debt that is owed to the guru, parents and society. The initiation is done by the Upadesam of the Gayathri manthram. The manthram is a universal prayer that calls upon the Glorious Power that pervades the Sun and the three words to arouse, awaken and strengthen the Intelligence and lead to success. Traditionally, the ceremony was performed to mark the point at which boys began their formal education. Though the context is changed today, importance of Gayatri Mantra and the discipline needed is still as it has been. The boy seeks the blessings of all elders as he is now ready to take the path of pursuit of knowledge and with the knowledge earned , can be of service to the society too. The Upanayanam is also believed to be a ceremony that commemorates the coming of age. This initiation into adulthood and study of religious texts is not just special for the Hindu religion. Other traditions have similar ceremonies. For example, in the Jewish tradition, it is called Bar-Mitzvah for the boys and Bat- Mitzva for girls, in Christianity it is called Confirmation and a Navjote ceremony in the Zoarastrian tradition. All cultures have rites of passages. These are rituals full of symbolism for a boy becoming a man and taking on adult responsibilities and also coming closer to the spiritual side of life . | Meaning of Upanayanam
49: Sunday February 19 ,2012 Upanayanam
50: As with many Hindu rituals, the entire Upanayanam ceremony, which is almost as big as a Hindu wedding, is one big poignant set of rituals. In the course of Jai and Rishi’s Upanayanam ceremony, there was the symbolic shaving of the hair where a few locks were cut by Guru and Thatha. After that, the boys took a bath and were dressed in new Veshtis and came in a procession to the sunroom, which was the venue of the ceremony. The maternal uncle of the boy is supposed to carry the boys during this procession Jai was carried by Sriram Mama and Rishi carried by Balalji Chitappa . The sacred thread is then placed over their shoulder, they are both initiated into the ritual of reciting the Gayathri mantram during the Brahmopadesham , followed by the sacred Homam. After the homam, the boys ask for alms (biksha - items that will help him on his journey to his teacher's house) from family and friends. After Upanayanam, the boys seek blessings from the elders by doing namaskarams and performing Abhivadaye.
51: No matter how purely ritualistic some parts of the the Upanayanam ceremony may have seemed like, what was most poignant of all was the grace and equanimity with which Jai and Rishi handled the proceedings as is evident in the photographs that follow. A few days before the ceremony ,we had started talking to them about the big day, taking them step by step through all the rituals. They both woke up at five thirty in the morning because the muhurtham was only a few hours away, they followed the priest's detailed instructions and recited the mantras | meticulously and showed us all their spirit in embracing tradition and values throughout the ceremonies .As they ate the festive meal in a traditional manner, served on a banana leaf, it was impressive to see their cousins and friends join Jai and Rishi and soon we had a "pandhi" of boys eating out of a "Vazhai elai" Thus ended an eventful poonal. The tiredness set in when all people left. The work of all those week's of preparations and planning was taking its toll on us. The task is not yet over though. The next one now is to get the boys to sit and do a daily routine of Sandhya Vandanam - a regular prayer done thrice a day - during Morning, Noon & in the Evening.
52: The functions started early in the morning with Ganapathi Homam ..usually all our auspicious occasions begin with a Ganesh Vandana; the Lord is also known as Vignaharta or Obstacle-remover; we propitiate Him and invoke His blessings so that the occasion passes off smoothly without any hitch whatsoever.
57: " Paruppu Thengai Kutti" and "Cheeru" pakshanam
58: Sankalpa Ceremony
59: Sankalpa is a Sanskrit word meaning a resolution, free will or determination. The Vadhyar guides the boys with the help of their father to take a sankalpa (a firm resolve) to achieve the purpose of the ceremony.
60: The Choulam or Vapanam ceremony where a few locks of hair are cut by the father .
63: Adorned with the beautiful flower garlands, Jai and Rishi look handsome and charming, ready to be carried in a procession.
73: Jasmine Strings and Prayers
75: Yagnopaveethadhaaranam Under the guidance of the vadhyar, the sacred thread is placed by the father across the child’s left shoulder. Further, Moonji (a gridle made out of Munja grass) is tied around the child’s waist to protect the child’s purity and keep evils away.
78: Thanga Poonal | Velli Poonal
82: Getti melam The priest signals for Getti melam ( which means faster and louder playing of the drum ) as the Auspicious time approaches for Brahmopadesam.
83: Brahmopadesham (initiation into Gayathri mantra)
84: A special ritual to honor the father by washing the father's feet
87: Sriram Mama and Chitra mami place a gold ring on the newly appointed Brahmacharis
88: Jai and Rishi were taken outside and shown the sun ..it is a symbolic act to seek protection by the sun god, to learn from the Sun unswerving duty and discipline. The boys also offer prayers to the Sun for attainment of virtues. | SURYA DARSHANA
92: This is the main part of the invocation of the gods. For two hours, the boys sat before the altar as the Sastrigal chanted, cracked coconuts and bathed a statue of a deity in a mixture of milk, yogurt, honey, sugar and ghee (clarified butter). | Upanayanam Homam
95: "Bhavati Bhiksham Dehi"
96: The women of the Sabha symbolically gather to give alms to the Bramhachaari
98: As a student, the Bramhchaari is expected to live on the charity of a designated group of families
99: The act of giving Biksha is considered a sacred duty and an honor for the women of the community.
101: Abhivadaye | is an introduction of self with lineage. After reciting the Abhivadaye Mantra, the boys prostrate before the elders and seek their blessings
103: Seeking the blessing of all the elders by saluting with Sashtanga Namaskaram.
104: Blessings from Family and Friends
106: Arathi marks the end of the rituals of the Poonal Kalyanam. The purpose of this ceremony is to safeguard the boys from bad planetary influences,.
107: In keeping with tradition, the Saddhi was served on a banana leaf. The spread was sumptuous and consisted of a range of items to tickle one's taste buds in every possible way! Pickles of mango and chutneys of tamarind and ginger (Pachadi) along with savoury Pappadum, Avial, Beans Curry , Rice ,Sambar and Rasam was served . The high points of the Saddhi were, of course, the Paal Payasam and the crispy vadai. | Upanayanam lunch - A Saddhi Feast
111: A Sumptuous Feast !
112: We are grateful for the amazing images and video footage provided by our photographers..each of them took very unique photos that really captured the personality of the boys and the importance of their special day. ... Thank you so much for capturing such beautiful memories !
113: Acknowledgements | Our special thanks to the many people who made this milestone event for Jai and Rishi very special and memorable | Catering :Prema mami (Top) and Saraswati Mami | Kai Murukku :Saroja Mami from NJ | Invitation card design assistance: Ina
114: Vadhyars (Priests) are an integral part of any religious function like Upanayanam, Marriage, Griha Pravesam, Aavani Avittam, Ayush Homam etc.
115: Our sincere thanks to our Shri Varadarajan Sastrigal who really put in an excellent effort in initiating Jai and Rishi to the auspicious Vedic chants and making the Upananyanam Function a memorable one . | A deep sense of gratitude to Shri Uma Maheshwara Sastrigal, our family priest for more than three decades in India, for all the guidance and advise on conducting the Upanayanam and for blessing the boys as they embark on their spiritual journey .
117: And | Thanks for sharing our special day with us!