It’s nearing dusk and thankfully, the rains have ceased. As I walk hurriedly to the temple nearby, I can hear the shlokas of the Ramayanam from nearly every house I pass.. It’s 16th July 2012 and the Ramayana maasam has begun.
“Sree Rama Rama Rama,Sree Ramachandra Jaya
Sree Rama Rama Rama Sree Ramabhadra Jaya
Sree Rama Rama Rama Sree Sithabhirama Jaya
Sree Rama Rama Rama Lokabhirama Jaya
Sree Rama Rama Rama Ravananthaka Jaya
Sree Rama Mama Hridi Ramatham Rama Rama”
Karkadaka masam popularly known as the Ramayana Masam in Kerala and the Aadi maasam in Tamil Nadu falls on the last month of the malayalam calendar and the fourth month of the Tamil calendar. Malayalis have always referred to the old solar calendar of the malayalam era “Kollavarsham“.
From special discounts on religious books to a ready-made mix of ‘Karkadaka Kanji’ or ‘Marunnu Kanji’; a special gruel made during this season (some call it the Monsoon Soup Recipe(!)), the city markets are all set for this ‘panja’ maasam – the month of scarcity, because it is also the time of the torrential monsoons of the South when the days are dull, gloomy and rainy. The Karkadaka month has long been identified as the period for preventive treatments and rejuvenation therapies due to this very reason.
As per the Hindu astrological almanac – The Panchangam – new ventures and auspicious functions such as marriages are not held during this month.
Some Important Rituals:
KARKADAKA VAAVUBALI/ Pithru Tharppana (propitiating the departed souls)
A ritual dedicated to the dead ancestors and relatives is performed on the Amavasi or no moon day in the Karkadaka Masam. Thousands of people visit the sea shores and riverbanks to offer ‘bali’ to their departed ancestors. Temples and religious organizations make elaborate arrangements for the ritual. It is believed that the souls of dead ancestors attain ‘moksha’ or eternal peace when ‘Vavu Bali’ is offered. It is performed under the guidance of an elderly person or priest.
Darbha (a type of long grass), pavithram (ring made of darbha grass), cheroola (a special herb), ellu (sesame), cooked rice, water and banana leaves are the important accompaniments needed for performing bali ritual. The ‘bali’ ritual done on a banana leaf is finally taken to the river/sea by the person who offered the bali and that person dips in the water along with the offering leaving it in the water.
A karkadaka vaavubali story: You may be wondering why there is a special day for this, right? One of my friends told me that it is assumed our ancestors live on the side of the moon which is not visible from earth. New moon is the day when the sun rays never reach the side of the moon which is facing earth, due to which we cannot see the moon. It means that the sun rays are completely on the other side of the moon, where our ancestors live – which is like noon time to them.
Similarly full moon day is that day where sun rays are completely on the side of moon facing earth, so it will be night time for our ancestors. So one day for our ancestors is 28 days for us, with new moon day as meal time and full moon day as midnight for them. So when we do a bali on new moon day, we are actually serving lunch for our ancestors.
So what is special for the new moon day of karkadakam? It is assumed that Devas live on Meru parvat, which is on the north pole of the earth. In Geography classes, we have learnt that there are three months in a year in north pole region when the sun never sets. It happens when the sun is on the utharayanam and reaches the max north area. Similarly there are three months where it is completely dark there, when the sun is on the dakshinayanam. Here, we can consider that one day for Devas is same as one year for human beings, with dakshinayanam time as night and utharayanam time as day. The middle of utharayanam time is the lunch time for Devas, which comes in Karkadaka vavu day!
So it is inferred that we are choosing for vaavubali, that day in a year when we get an opportunity to serve lunch for the Devas and ancestors together.
aapadaam apahartaaram daataaram sarvasampadaam. .
lokaabhiraamam shriiraamam bhuuyo bhuuyo namaamyaham..
” I bow again and again to Sree Rama who removes (all) obstacles and grants all wealth and pleases all. “
This is a salutation offered at the start of reading any scripture as per tradition. This prayer is for removing all obstacles encountered. The prefix Sri to Rama indicates that Rama is always accompanied by Sri, His consort Seetha in the form of goddess Sri Maha Lakshmi.
Ramayana is not only significant in the spiritual element embedded in it but also holds out ideals for every home and family. The Ramayana is the legend of Lord Rama. But it is not just an account that should be read during a particular period or a poem of mere presentation.
It tells the story of a noble human being, his bonds and relations, how a man should behave, the path that is to be chosen for a good life and more. We can trace out the duty of a younger brother to the elder one which is reflected in Lakshmana and Bharatha. The extreme and untainted attachment to his master can be seen in Lord Hanuman. The unadulterated loyalty to her husband and tolerance can be spotted in Sita Devi. Ramayana focus on fraternity of brotherhood, lenience, endurance, dedication and devotion.
If we can get our children to read The Ramayana, it will have a profound impact on their minds. The Ramayana describes the epic battle to wipe out Evil. It not only teaches us dharma, it also sheds light on the unpleasant situations that we may have to face in life and the choices that lie before us. It teaches us that problems are inevitable in one’s life, but if one is filled with wisdom and devotion one can overcome any problem.
The Making of Karkadaka Kanji
1 teaspoon each of the following herbs:
Aashali (Peppergrass or Garden Cress), Fenugreek (Uluva), Cardamom, Cumin, Coriander seeds, Aniseed, Dry Ginger, Black Cumin, Nutmeg, Cloves, Varattu Manjal (Curcuma Longa), Uzhinja (Cardiyospermum Halikakabam or in Sanskrit, Indravalli), Thazhuthama (Boerrhavia diffusa or Hog Weed), Kurunthotti (Sida rhombifolia) roots, Kari kurinji (Strobilanthes ciliatus), Puthirichundu, Changlam piranda, Ayamodakam (Caraway, Persian cumin or Ajwain), Ariyaaru mix.
1/2 cup Navarra Rice (A special kind of rice grown in Kerala. Unlike brown rice in spite of its health benefits, this rice is still not included in main stream cooking.) You could also use par boiled rice (matta ari)
2 tablespoons whole mung beans (green gram)
2 tablespoons broken wheat
1/2 cup fresh milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon ghee
2 pearl onions/shallots
1 teaspoon salt
Jaggery/Karipetti to taste.
1. Boil the herbs,beans, rice and wheat in a litre of water.
2. When the rice, beans and wheat appear cooked add both the milk. Simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the salt and jaggery, stirring to combine.
4. Heat ghee in a pan and sauté the chopped shallots to a golden brown colour. Pour the tempering over the kanji.
In these days of city living, I think it’s easier to buy a karkadaka kanji mix because it’s very hardto find all these herbs unless you have an ayurvedic store nearby or you live in the countryside.
This is the only month when the elephants of Kerala especially those at Guruvayur, have a 30 day time off for ayurvedic rejuvenation followed by nearly a month of complete rest.
So go ahead and have a great month ahead!! Get yourself pampered by ayurvedic drinks and massages, visit temples and feel that sense of peace pervading your mind, feed the elephants, pray to your ancestors and read the Ramayana 🙂