Avani Avittam or Upakramam is a famous
South Indian festival associated with the Hindu festival 'Raksha Bandhan' a
festival to celebrate the sacred relation of a brother and a sister. It is a
ritual that is followed by the Brahmins. Avani Avittam is most commonly
celebrated in the southern states of India like Tamil Nadu and Kerala and
also in the states of Orissa and Maharashtra. This ritual is performed on
the day of Shravan Purnima that is the same day as Raksha Bandhan.
In the beginning, it was purely celebrated by Hindus but gradually the zeal
of this festival has spread to other religions around the world. Hindus wear
a holy thread and offer libations of water to the ancient Rishis on this
Rituals of Avani Avittam
Avani Avittam is a day of retrospection for the Brahmins and a day when
they can reaffirm their vows of penitence. This is also known as Mahasankalp
(great aim). On this day, Brahmins take a dip in the holy river. It is a
sight which commands immense respect all over the rolling plains of India.
They also change their sacred thread on this day. Thread changing process
symbolizes the shedding of all sins and making a new beginning. It also
involves the renewal of their pledges to keep their Vedic duties towards
society and humanity at large. This festival of Upakarmam reminds the wearer
of the sacred thread of its glorious spiritual significance.
Brahmins also offer libations of water to their ancestors to whom they owe
their birth and to the great Rishis to whom they are highly indebted for
their spiritual knowledge and the Vedas themselves. In North India, on this
day, an amulet known as a Raksha or Rakhi
is tied round the wrist of brothers by the sisters as a protection from evil
during the coming year.
Prayer Mantras and Meaning :-
The prayer of that people recite to wash away all the sins on this day is
something like :-
"For the removal of all my sins and thereby to secure a divine
blessing and for qualifing myself to perform the essential duties of
Brahmanas as prescribed in the vedas and smritis and adopted by the really
good in their conduct I put on this Yagnopavita".
While removing the old thread, the mantra recited means :-
"I throw away the broken dirty old thread, may the new one bring on
long life and Brahmana's brilliance."
When the new thread is worn then another mantra is recited which means: "I
put on the sacred thread which is highly pure, is inseparable from God, is
capable of prolonging life and is the foremost in the accomplishment of a
Brahmana. May such pure Yagnopavita bring strength and dignity."
Avani Avittam Significance
The festival of Avani Avittam is marked as the most significant and
auspicious event for Brahmins. The name 'Upakramam' that is another name for
this festival means 'beginning'. On this day, the Yajurvedis begin to read
Yajur Veda for next six months. The day is also auspicious because it is
believed that on this day Lord Vishnu was incarnated as Lord Hayagriva, the
lord of knowledge, and reinstated the Vedas to Brahma.