SAMPOORNA KASI YATRA
As per our Hindu scriptures, every Hindu,especially us Brahmins have to undertake a pilgrimage called The Kasi Yatra at least once in our life time.
This is done to please our fore-fathers (ancestors) and for the welfare of our family and the next generations.
The yatra starts with a pilgrimage to Rameswaram,where Lord Rama did pooja to Lord Shiva who is called Sri Ramanatha Swami in Rameswaram Temple.
One has to take a bath in the holy Agni Theertham there and take a Sankalpam at the start of the pooja.Then we take ritual baths in the 28 holy Theerthams in the Temple complex at the Rameswaram Temple.Then have Darshan of the Lord Sri Ramanatha Swami .
Then we have to perform Srardham for our ancestors there either as a full Srardham or as a Hiranya Srardham, an abridged version of the ceremony with five Brahmin priests. Here instead of cooked rice, wet soaked rice is given as Pindams or offerings.
Then we go over to the lands -end, Dhanushkodi, where one has to take dip/snaan in the sea 33 times, collect the sand from the seashore in three big scoops . This sand (about a Kg each bag) are called no more as just sand. They are named, Sethu Madhava,Veni Madhava and Bindhu Madhava after Aavahanam. Sethu Madhava and Bindu Madhava are dissolved/consigned to the sea and the other, Veni Madhava is brought with us in a cloth bag . These are to be dissolved in the Prayag, the Sangam ( confluence) of the Holy River Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswathi at Allahabad at Triveni Sangam.
Then visit the various temples in Rameswaram like Kothandarama Swami. Rama Theertham, Lakshmana Theertham, Seetha Theertham etc.
From Rameswaram after prayers we go over to Varanasi. Have darshan of the Lord Viswanath and Paarvathi who is called here Visalakshi, Goddess Annapoorni and proceed to Allahabad for Triveni Sangam.The rituals done in and around Varanasi/Kasi are called in short as:Prayag Mundan,Kasi Dhandan and Gaya Pindan.The things to do are:
We start our rituals with a Sankalpam,a pledge for the things to do.The spouses, before the Veni Dhan, seek permission from their husbands . Then the Veni Madhav and Bindu Madhava, by now dried are worshipped. Please do not call them as sands from Rameswaram.Plastic bags are banned in The Ganges so carry them in cloth bags.
Then in a flat plate, (Muram in Tamil) keep a mirror,comb, kumkum, haldi,a blouse piece and take a boat to the Sangam With the priests,(Pandas of Kasi) Prayag) chanting divine Mantras, the husband combs the wife’s hair,(Pinnal) then does pooja to the scissors and accompanied by chantings of the priest removes some hair (ritualistic) from the pleat of hair of his wife.This,with the things kept in the Muram, is offered to the river Ganges at the Sangam.
It is observed that while the Turmeric/kumkum float,the piece of hair sinks,. It is understood as the acceptance of our offering Veni Dhanam, by the Triveni . Triveni means the confluence of the three rivers,Ganga,Yamuna and Saraswathi..
Then offer/dissolve the Veni and Bindu Madhavas brought from Rameswaram in the sangam.
Afterwards,collect water from the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna in a can for getting it sealed in coppeer vessels. One vessel,about half a litre or so are to be preserved for the Abhishekam at Rameswaram to conclude the Sampoorna Kasi Yatra. The other small copper vessels filled with the holy water can be used in poojas at home and for offering to friends/relatives.
After returning from Triveni Sangam, Tharpanam has to be done at the Siva Mutt.The cooked rice for making 17 pindams are prepared and given by the priests at the Shivmutt.Opposite the mutt is a place for sealing the Ganges water in small copper vessels.If we had informed them in advance, meals are provided at the Shiv mutt at a nominal cost of Rs.50/=per plate. Most people do the filling and sealing of the Holy water from Ganges at the Chettiar shop in Varanasi.
The priests at Kasi(Sastrigal) ,all of them make all necessary arrangements for the yatra. Our priest is Sri Mahadev Ganapadigal. Tel No.-099849 61599).He does kaaryams for all three vedas, i.e. Rig,Yajur and Samaveda.Once tied up in advance,he picks the yatris at Varanasi and arranges vehicles for moving to Prayag, Kasi, Gaya etc. Things for the Dhan can either be brought by yatris themselves or he makes necessary arrangements for the Dhans to Brahmins after Srardham.
It is belived traditionally, that,this Dhan help us get rid of the sins committed or accumulated,and we have a peace of mind at the end of all the rituals.
The Srardham or ceremony could be either the regular one with homam etc. Or as Hiranya srardham. Depends on one’s desire/capacity.
Instead of normal cooking done in the south,the cooking here differs in that,coconut,tomato and green chillies are included here. Appam, vadai and Til laddus (Ellurundai) are made.
The strange fact at Varanasi is the complete absence of Crows! Hence pindams (offerings) are fed to the cows only.
In the afternoon, temple visits can be made.
Please note that,cellphones,cameras,big hand bags are not permitted. Better to leave them in the place of residence.
At the Temple of the Kaala Bhairava, the thin Kasi threads,(Kasi kayaru) are kept at the feet of the God and given to us for tying in the wrists.
At the Murugan Temple here,Lord Dhandapani,Lord Muruga strangely sports a beard .The priest ,has a stick at the sanctum sanctorum and gives three strokes/taps with it on your back. It is supposed to be a punishment for the sins committed by us!
It is believed that, in Gaya,our Pitrus, our fore-fathers will be waiting for our offerings, pindams.It is said that Sri Rama came here with Seetha to offer pindams for his father and when he went to collect items for the same, Dasaratha appeared before Seetha and requested for offerings as he was hungry. Seetha,without knowing what to do as she had nothing,took some sand and made pindams and Dasaratha took it gladly and went off.When Rama offered pindams later,Dasaratha told that Seetha had already offered and that he was satiated.Rama,saddened by it asked Seetha of witnesses for her offerings.Seetha asked River Phalguni to bear witness,but Phalguni fearing a fight between Rama and Seetha said that she had not seen it.Seetha asked later a cow,Thulasi and Brahmins to bear witness for the same. They all refused and Seetha ,vexed with them,cursed that the Phalguni shall become dry,cow should lose itsknowledge and shall be worshipped thereafer only from behind and Thulasi to become a shrub in garbage.and the brahmins’ hunger to be never satisfied and thence suffer from pangs of hunger.The only witness,the Aklshaya Vadam, the banyan tree was blessed by her to be eternal with long life.
At Gaya,the priests at the Karnataka Bhavan and Sankara Mutt make all necessary arrangements for the ceremonial offerings.
First, from the spring water dug out from deep in the Phalguni river bed, rice is cooked. Then after Tharpan,rice is cooked in two vessels for the preparation of 17 and 64 pindams as offerings. Then at Vishnupadam,a place of worship,17 pindams are offered to those who were or forefathers,i.e. Parents,grand parents,great-grand parents,Karunya pitrus,to those who died without water or food( If any)to those who died without any offsprings ( due to which karmas are not done for them by successors).
Then for our mother who bore us to this world bearing untold sufferings during pregnancy,-she is offered 16 pindams, then for all our relatives,those related to us by marriage( In-laws side)the servants of our household, to our teachers, friends and pets, pindams are offered. That is whoever had interacted with us and are no more are remembered and offered food here.
Then at the place of stay in Gaya, regular Srardham, the ceremony is performed. All necessary expenses including provision of a cook for the preparations are made by the Sastrigal from Kasi.
Unlike South Indian food for ceremonies, the food here contains the local dishes viz. Pooris, Dhal,2 vegetables, sambhar, rasam, vadai, buttermilk.
It is strange to observe that the Brahmins of Gaya are all thin,slim ,may be a witness to the curse given ages back!!
After 17+64 pindams offered at Akshaya Vadam the person doing all this Kaaryam is to leave from his consumption ( swear off) a vegetable,a leaf and a fruit for ever thereafter. These are to be from his favourites not from the ones he hates!!. The Gaya Brahmin is asked whether he is fully satisfied with our offerings and then conclude our rituals at Gaya.
At Kasi we have to do Panch Ghat snan with offering of Pindams at each ghat (17pindams). Take bath at Assi Ghat first,get in the boat,cook rice in a stove in the boat itself,make 17 rice balls(pindams). Do tharpan and offfer it to Ganges. Cook again and start for the next ghat. Offer the pindams there after bath and Tharpan and continue in this manner for 5 Ghats.Other ghats are Dasaaswamedh Ghat,Mani karnika Ghat,PanchGanga ghat, and Trilochan ghat.Takes about 2 hours and a cook acoompanies us in the boat.
Then at residence in Kasi do Dhampathi Pooja, Ganga Pooja and Kalabhairavar Samaradhanai. For Dhampathi Pooja we offer Dhothi+vastram and Saree with blouse piece with accessories like kumkum, mirror, comb, bangles etc to an aged couple treating them as Kasi Viswanath and Sri Visalakshi (the reigning God and Goddess of Varanasi ).
At Varanasi,Chettiar shaop specializes in getting the water you had collected at Triveni Sangam in copper vessels of your choosing. They do not charge for sealing the Ganga water. It is a good and relatively cheaper place for buying your requirements of small copper plates and statuettes of Goddess Annapoorni. At the end of Kasi Yatra one is supposed to gift Ganaga Jal,and Annapoorni to your near and dear along with the Kasi Kayaru of the KalaBhairava temple!