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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Pravaram (Abhivadaye)


I am not one who likes to follow rituals blindly. I like to know the substance. If one can get the substance, understand it, find it relevant to living a useful life and use it wisely, how does it matter if the ritual is not practiced? If the ritual is practiced it should be with mind, speech and action in synchrony. It should be practiced so as to teach the young and show them their spiritual roots. This is what I like to do with some of our samskaras or what is called in modern times as the rites of passage.

Upanayanam is such a samskara and I find it a meaningful rite of passage for boys. We need such a ceremony particularly in modern times with so many distractions, temptations and lack of role-models. For girls, it is relatively easy since nature takes care of it and lets them know they have moved to the next stage.

In preparing my grand-son for upanayanam, I wanted to teach him the Gayatri mantra and the special verse he has to recite when he asks for blessings from elders. It is called “pravaram” (which means line of ancestry) or “abhivadaye” since it is the first word in the verse.

It is customary to say this small verse (sutra) when paying respect to an elder. This verse traces the family tree to its founders, millennia back. It starts with the names of three to five rishis all of whom can be traced back to the Vedas. They were the authors (or seers) of Rk mantras. After mentioning these rishis, the verse mentions the gotra, the name of the codified manual the family uses for performing samskaras (Grahya sutra) and the name of the branch of one of the four Vedas the family follows.

This custom of paying respect is called “abhivaadaye”, which is translated to mean “I pay respect to you”. For my specific Athreya family, the words are:

                Abhivaadaye, athreya, archanaanasa,  shyaavasva thraya risheh pravaraanvitah

                Athreya gotrah, aapasthambha sutrah, yajussaaka adhyyayi

                ………….(say your name) sharma naama aham asmi bhoh

In our family tree, when we say “abhivadaye” we mention Athreya, Archanaanas and Shyaavaasvas. All of them descended from Atri and have written Rk mantras in the Rg Veda.

Since these words have been transferred from father to son uninterrupted and unchanged over the millennia, we can be sure that these three rishis were our documented ancestors. We know that Atri was a major seer and author of several mantras in Rg Veda. The name Athreya means “one who is the progeny of Atri”. In fact, among the 180 or so rishis mentioned in the Vedas, there are several Athreyas.

Atri is mentioned in several sutras in Rg veda. Athreya Punarvasu was probably the first link (or the latest one from the original rishis) because he lived in historical times and taught medicine at Taxila. His book Athreya Samhitam was the forerunner for Caraka Samhitam.

Archanaanas is the seer of only one mantra in Rg Veda on Mitra-Varuna in Book 5, sloka 64. It is shown below.

Please look at the names in Sanskrit (in red font) to help pronounce the names properly. 


Rg Veda  Book 5: Sloka 64 by Rishi Archanaanas on Mitra-Varuna

वरुणं वो रिशादसम रचा मित्रं हवामहे |
परि वरजेव बाह्वोर जगन्वांसा सवर्णरम ||
ता बाहवा सुचेतुना पर यन्तम अस्मा अर्चते |
शेवं हि जार्यं वां विश्वासु कषासु जोगुवे ||
यन नूनम अश्यां गतिम मित्रस्य यायाम पथा |
अस्य परियस्य शर्मण्य अहिंसानस्य सश्चिरे ||
युवाभ्याम मित्रावरुणोपमं धेयाम रचा |
यद ध कषये मघोनां सतोत्णां च सपूर्धसे ||
आ नो मित्र सुदीतिभिर वरुणश च सधस्थ आ |
सवे कषये मघोनां सखीनां च वर्धसे ||
युवं नो येषु वरुण कषत्रम बर्हच च बिभ्र्थः |
उरु णो वाजसातये कर्तं राये सवस्तये ||
उछन्त्याम मे यजता देवक्षत्रे रुशद्गवि |
सुतं सोमं न हस्तिभिर आ पड्भिर धावतं नरा बिभ्रताव अर्चनानसम ||


Shyaavaasvas is the seer of several mantras. They are Book 5:52 on Marut, Book 5: 81 on Savitr, Book 8: 35 on Asvins, Book 8:37 on Indra and Book 8:38 on Indra/Agni. I copied only one of them as shown below.


Book 8: Sloka 81. Rishi Shyaavaashvas  on Savitr

युञ्जते मन उत युञ्जते धियो विप्रा विप्रस्य बर्हतो विपश्चितः |
वि होत्रा दधे वयुनाविद एक इन मही देवस्य सवितुः परिष्टुतिः ||
विश्वा रूपाणि परति मुञ्चते कविः परासावीद भद्रं दविपदे चतुष्पदे |
वि नाकम अख्यत सविता वरेण्यो ऽनु परयाणम उषसो वि राजति ||
यस्य परयाणम अन्व अन्य इद ययुर देवा देवस्य महिमानम ओजसा |
यः पार्थिवानि विममे स एतशो रजांसि देवः सविता महित्वना ||
उत यासि सवितस तरीणि रोचनोत सूर्यस्य रश्मिभिः सम उच्यसि |
उत रात्रीम उभयतः परीयस उत मित्रो भवसि देव धर्मभिः ||
उतेशिषे परसवस्य तवम एक इद उत पूषा भवसि देव यामभिः |
उतेदं विश्वम भुवनं वि राजसि शयावाश्वस ते सवित सतोमम आनशे ||


It gave me a special thrill and joy when I found the names of the three rishis among the mantras of Rg Veda dating back to 3,000 years or more.  What visionaries they were. What a heritage they left us. And, how cleverly they developed a way of making sure that the future generations knew their roots.



On learning about our ancestors who lived more than millennia back, my only regrets are 1. Wish I had learnt it when I had my upanayanam. 2. I wish women have a method like men have, to find their root-saints (moola rishi). But, if they know their family gotra name, they can find it too, although only through paternal lineage. 3. I wish every one had a custom similar to abhivadaye so they can trace their lineage too. My guess is that everyone in India should be able to trace back to one of the 180 or so rishis mentioned in the Vedas.

Sources: http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/       

The Secret of the Veda by Sri Aurobindo  - https://www.auro-ebooks.com/the-secret-of-the-veda/

2 comments:

Lilly said...

I was catching up with your blogs. Just read this one - you meant 'rites of passage' not 'rights of passage'- correct? Implies a totally different meaning! Just FYI

Balu said...

Thank you for catching the error. I corrected it.