Namboothiri Websites, Calicut, Kerala
(A Voluntary and Non-profit-oriented forum for documenting Namboothiri traditions in web)

(Daily rites of a Namboothiri)
It is to be remembered that only a very abbreviated idea of the rites is given here and that books/ manuals/ priests should be consulted for an actual performance. Also, actual steps vary slightly among Vedic recensions like Kausheethakan, Aaswalaayanan, Baadhoolakan, Boudhaayanan and Saamavedi Namboothiris. These details are taken from the prescribed reference manuals.

1. Uthhana Vidhi (Getting up in the morning): Wake up at Braahma muhoortham at five in the morning, two `Nazhikas' (48 minutes) before sunrise. Turn to the right side, say "Kesawaaya Namah" before sitting up, and, turning to the east, say a prayer to any one of the gods (Mangala praartthana). Seek the blessings of Bhoomidevi, the goddess of earth, by first touching the floor with the right hand and then touching the head, before actually getting up from the bed.

2. Aachamanam: This is the prescribed and symbolic way of cleaning of various parts of the face, head, chest and feet. Two such "Aachamanams" make one "Kaal Kazhukal", or "Paadaprakshaalanam". Note that the literal translation of "Kaalkazhukal" is "Washing the feet", but it is not just foot-cleaning. Aachamanam is performed after bathing and during other important occasions in a day. There are prescribed methods for tooth and tongue cleaning.

3. Snaana Vidhi (Bathing): After Soucha Vidhi, bathing is done as follows. Step into the water halfway (abdomen level), pray to the sacred rivers (Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswathi, Narmada, Sindhu and Cauvery), look north or east and dip the whole body under water once, rub the entire body clean with the palms and dip again twice. (Modern generation Namboothiris use toilet soaps here). Stand upright at the same spot and do Aachamanam twice.

4. Thalichukuli (Sprinkle-bath): After Aachamanam, take water in the right hand, chant "Aapohishta..." Manthram (three stanzas from Rigvedam) and sprinkle on the head, repeating this for each of the three stanzas. Say "Gange Mam Puneehi" thrice and immerse fully in water once more. Stricter procedure requires the Aachamanam and Thalichukuli on the banks of the pond.

Thereafter, wring the towel, wipe the body dry meanwhile chanting various Manthrams. Tie (or twist) the tuft of hair [Click here for "Sikha" or "Kuduma" (Tuft or Lock of Hair)] (if it exists), do `Kaalkazhukal' and give "Arghiam".

5. Arghia Vidhi: Sit with knees up, do "Kaalkazhukal" twice and "Aachamanam". Chant "Aapohishta..." and spray water on the face, repeating after each of the three stanzas. Take water with both palms joined, stand up, chant Gayathri Manthram (Om Bhoorbhuva Swa:, Tatsavithur Varenyam, Bhargo Devasya Dhee Mahi, Dhiyo Yo Na: Prachodayaat) and throw the water up and away, do this thrice - this is called `Arghiam' offer. Take water in the right hand, pour it on the left palm, turn around to the right once, sit down and do "Tharpanam".

"Tharpanam" consists of offering water from the palm thrice each of "Deva", "Devaganam", "Rshi", "Rshiganam", "Pithru" and "Pithruganaam", holding the "Yajnasoothram" ("Poonool", sacred cross-thread) first in the normal position, then with Poonool straight around the neck only and then around the left arm.

This is called "Kuli-Upasthanam" and is to be done after every bath. Thereafter, put the "Poonool" in the normal position, wring the towel, do "Kaalkazhukal" and "Aachamanam", hang the towel on the left forearm and perform "Sandhyaavandanam".

6. Manthrochaarana Vidhi: It is very important to concentrate singl-mindedly in the specific focus prescribed for each Manthram, though this is quite difficult. Do not let the mind stray away.

7. Sandhyaavandana Vidhi: (Obeisance prayer to the three Sandhyas, morning, noon and evening) "Sandhya" denotes the time just before sunrise and just after sunset. Brahmanans generally believed in a `sandhya' at noon too).

Stand erect facing east (sit facing west in the evening) and perform "Sandhyaavandanam" with single-minded concentration and utmost Bhakthi towards Lord Maha Vishnu.

Do "Brahmaprajaapathi Chhandas", chant "Pranavam" (Om) 108 times (about 40 per min.), then "Dasapranavam" (Om Bhoo: Om Bhuva: etc.), "Gaathhinoviswaamithra", (Gayathri) Chhandas, then chant Gayathri 108 times, do Gayathri Chhandas, again chant Pranavam 108 times (the "Kausheethakans" will do "Rahugunogothama Chhandas" and chant "Aanobhadram", at this stage, in a sitting posture), and thereafter complete the Sandhyaavandanam" ("Sandhya Mutikkuka" or "Anthyutikkuka" in short).

The completion process involves keeping the palms together in front of the chest and chanting "Mithrasya ....... Na Dooral" ("Imam Me" ...., for evening), then "Indraaya Nama" ("Varunaaya Nama"...., for evening) in the four directions (some do it in 8 directions), then upwards (to the sky) and downwards (to the earth). Turn around to the right 7 times, touch the right ear and then the floor below and say "Dhruvaasi". Stand up, do "Sandhyaanaaarayanam" Chhandas, chant "Om Namo Naaraayanaaya" eight times and do the Chhandas again. This completes the "Sandhyaavandanam".

Remember that morning "Sandhya" begins only four "Nazhikas" before sunrise. Arghiam should not be offered before that. Also, completing "Sandhyaavandanam" should be done only after sunrise (reckoned not as sighting of the sun, but when it is bright enough to identify the hairs, says on the arms). Balance time, if any, is to be spent prolonging chant of Gayathri beyond 108. Counting is easily done using the fingers on both hands, left hand fingers for tens and right, for unit.

8. Bhasmadhaarana Vidhi (Bhasmam application): This is the first thing to be done after "Sandhyaavandanam". Do "Kaalkazhukal" and "Aachamanam", take a small amount of "Bhasmam" in the left hand, sit facing north, take water in the right hand, chant "Aapohi..." and splash on the face and on the "Bhasmam", repeating three times. Apply the required amount of water in the "Bhasmam" while chanting "Sannodevi...". Chant "Om Namssivaaya" and apply the "Bhasmam" on 1. head, 2. forehead, 3. neck, 4. right shoulder with right hand, 5. right arm (outside biceps) with left hand 6. left arm with right arm, 7. chest, and then 8. back with both hands, chanting "Panchaaksharam" (Namassivaaya) every time. Then, using both hands, apply on the abdomen, both knees, ankles and feet.

Then chant thrishtup "Jaathavedase..." and do `Vyaapakam' once,i.e.,with both hands, go over the whole body from head to foot, and chanting `Panchaaksharam", do Vyaapakam twice. After "Bhasmam" application, the hands are not supposed to be washed, but this condition is usually waived.

In the evening, it is the same, except for dry, single line application ("Aapohi...." not done).

9. Namaskaara Vidhi: This prescribes the way to prostrate before the Sun from an upright position, repeating as many times as possible, while chanting Rik's relating to Sun (Sauram or Aaditya Manthram). Anyone doing this 100 times every morning is certain to have a healthy body, disease-free life and a better performance of mental faculties. "Soorya Namaskaaram", as it is called, is not just a religious rite but an exercise regimen for the body, mind and spirit, and has been accepted as such in many parts of the world. If "Prathyaksha Namaskaaram" or out in the open whence the sun can be seen and felt (this is ideal), may be done indoors.

As this is an exercise, kindly do not perform it without consulting a doctor. The Manthrams need not be necessarily for Sun, but may also be for the Family/ Personal/ Community deity, and usually start with Guru, Ganapathi, Dakshinaamoorthy, Saraswathi and Vyaasan, before praying to Sun or the other gods.

10. Bhakshana Vidhi: Even for taking food, there are certain prescribed procedures.

While eating meals, sit facing east or west, south is permissible if unavoidable, but north is taboo! Serve all the required food in the beginning itself, since serving again to polluted leaf is considered bad. This, however, is often overlooked, though some Namboothiris still use an additional leaf. Serve rice and dry cooked vegetables, then some ghee (melted butter) on the rice (called "Upastharanam") and do "Kutikkuneer Veezhthal" by chanting the prescribed Manthram, before other items are served. Chant "Sathyamthwarthena...", do "Pranaahuthi", and eat slowly. After food, drink one handful of water chanting "Amruthaa...", which also is called "Kutikkuneer veezhthal". Wash the hands, mouth and feet and do "Aachamanam". Any meal (even snacks) with hand-mouth contact needs this procedure. Between meals, snacks are not at all recommended. After meals, touch the stomach with the right hand and chant "Vedamantrams" especially " Pithum Nu Sthosham..." for easier digestion and to prevent stomach upsets and problems. Reciting "Raamachandraashtakam", "Vaasudevaashtakam", Vishnu Sahasranaamam" and other Stothrams follows this. Walk while chanting these, since sitting after meals is not healthy. Sleeping during daytime is not permitted.

The whole mouth (lips, tongue, teeth,saliva,spit, etc.) is considered polluted ("Asudhi" or "Echil"). Anything coming in contact with these or the leaf, and leftovers after meals, gets polluted and in turn pollutes others on touch. All such things or body parts have to be washed in water before re-use. Floors, walls or other areas thus polluted needs to be cleaned or sprayed with water containing some cow-dung, which is said to have tremendous cleaning properties! Such pollution does not exist in the case of children under three, and with children between three and five, parents are exempted from pollution. While drinking water, the container should not touch the lips or any other parts of the mouth. Solid food if eaten between meals should be broken, cut or sliced into pieces and dropped into the mouth.

The main aim of all such "Vidhis" or strictures/ guidelines/ prescriptions is to ensure health, hygiene and mental peace through codification and consequent strict adherence. All, and especially the modern Namboothiri community, should understand this.

This part pertains to those Namboothiris who are married and stay at home.

For such Grihasthans, the first and primary ritual after "Sandhyaavandanam" is "Oupaasanam Veli". The fire (Agni) used during the marriage ritual is kept burning and is called "Oupaasanam" or "Oupaasanaagni". Each Grihasthan will have an "Oupaasana Kundam" in the ritual room (usually the Vatakkini). If the fire per chance extinguishes, there is a prescribed Vedic way of rekindling it.

A "Homam" called "Oupaasanam Veli" is to be performed every day after the morning and evening Sandhyaavandanam. Most people, except the very fastidious ones, used to skip the evening Homam, and instead, it is repeated in the morning. It is to be performed by the husband, but if he is absent or sick, the wife can do it, and if she is also unable to do it for any reason, other Namboothiris or Brahmachaaris may do it in order to keep it uninterrupted. But in any event, either the husband or the wife should be present in the area, as otherwise the fire will be considered as extinguished even if not so literally, and then needs to be rekindled.

Two other rituals generally performed on a daily basis are the Ganapathy Homam and the Pooja. These are to be performed by the male Namboothiris, but not necessarily by the Grihasthan only, and sometimes by outsiders on wages.

Yet another ritual for the Grihasthans is "Vaiswadevam", commonly called "Vaisyam", and consists of a Homam using "Havis", and a "Bali thooval". "Havis" is the cooked rice (with "unakkallari") used for all such Homams, while the same is called "Nivedyam" when offered to gods, and "Kavyam" when used for "Sraadham", etc. While Oupaasanam Veli should be performed in the Illam, Vaisyam may be done anywhere, as while on travel. If that is not possible, "Tharpanam" in water with Vaisyam will do, which, being easier and yet prescribed, is what most people do.

Thus, Oupaasanam Veli and Vaisyam are prescribed only for the Grihasthans, while "Namaskaaram", "Japam", "Swadhyaayam" and "Pushpaanjali" are to be performed by all Namboothiris.

A Homam called "Sthaaleepaakam" is to be performed with Oupaasanam on all Prathipadam days (the day after full moon). It is termed as "Ishti" if done by Agnihothris (those who have performed "Agni" Yaagam). Food is not to be taken on the previous night.

Consuming "Puththari" when done by Grihasthans, is known as "Aagrayanam", and is done along with the Homam after cooking "Puththari" over the Oupaasanam fire while chanting the prescribed Manthrams.

"Upasthaanam" is a daily ritual to be performed by all Namboothiris at mid-day before meals.

Namboothiris are not supposed to cut their hair (nor shave) during the months of Karkitakam, Kanni, Dhanu, Meenam, their birth-month and during one month preceding both parent's "Sraadhams", thus adding up to almost 7 months. Hair cut is also to be avoided during the year-long "Deeksha" following the death of either parent, as well as during his wife's pregnancy period until after the first "Samskaaram" called "Jaathakarmam". The latter is called "Garbha Deeksha". It is also forbidden on three specified days of the week, five "Thithis", eleven stars and on the birth-star. All these were strictly followed in earlier days.

The morning bath itself has some prescribed procedures. After cleaning the body and immersing in water, she sits on the first step above water in the tank, makes a paste of turmeric and castor seed, applies on the fore-head, chest, arms and neck, and bathes again. These are normally kept on the steps all the time. After bath, sandal paste is applied on the prescribed parts of the body such as the fore-head, arms, etc. This is known as "Chandanam Thodal" or "Kuriyital". It is followed by "Karuka Uzhiyal". For this, she sits facing east, draws circles in the air around the face three times with "Karuka" (Cynodon) in hand, throws away the "Karuka", and wears "Dasapushpam" garland on the head. She then removes it and now applies mascara on the eyelids.


1. Karuka Cynodon dactylon
2. Cheroola (cherupoola) Ervalanata
3. Poovaankurunthila Vernonia cineria
4. Vishnukraanthi (Krishnakraanthi) Ivolvulus ulcinoides
5. Mukkutti Biophytum sensitivum
6. Muyalchevi (Oricheviyan) Emiliason chifolia
7. Nilappana Curculigo orchiodes
8. Kanjunni (Kayyonni) Eclipta alba
9. Uzhinja Cardiospermum halicacabum
10. Thiruthaali Manthrogora officianalum

The woman or girl then prepares for prayers, beginning with lighting the fireplace, and cooking rice for "Nivedyam" meant for Pooja. The old flowers offered the previous day are removed and the idols are cleaned.

Cooking "Nivedyam" ("Nedyam") is followed by cooking rice for the children's breakfast. Then, facing east, she does the prayer ritual called Nedikkal with offerings like "avil" (flattened rice), "Malar" (puffed rice), "Sarkara" (jaggery), "Pazham" (plantains), etc. After the hair-removal ceremony ("Choulam"), every girl does this by chanting Manthrams and praying to the "Paradevatha". This is seen practised only among Kerala Brahmanans. After ear-piercing ceremony and dressing up ("Ututhu thutangal"), girls do "Ganapathikkital", by offering "Ata" and prayers to Ganapathy. They also pray to Vishnu, Sivan and other gods, meant for general improvement and happiness.

In addition, they also pray ("Nedikkal") to Perumthrikkovilappan (Sivan deity of Taliparamba), facing north if they live south of Taliparamba, or vice-versa. The primary aim is said to be for improving the prospects of marriage ("Bharthru laabham").

The time between mid-day meals and afternoon prayers is spent usefully by reading Puraanams (in Kilippaattu) like "Bhaagavatham", "Bhaaratham" and "Raamaayanam" as well as other mythological stories.

In the afternoon, (when the shadow lengthens to five steps - "Thirinjanchati", around 3-30 or 4), girls wash their feet and face, sit facing north, hold the neck-thread ("Kazhuthil-Charatu") with the right hand and chant the "Panchaaksharam", "Nama: Sivaaya".

In the evening, before sunset, again they wash their feet and face, sit facing west, offer prayers, chant Manthrams (Japam) and prostrate (with legs folded) seven times. Most of the normal days, there is no offering ("Nedikkal") in the evening.

| Article No:8.2 | Last update of this article:29th September 2000 |
Article Prepared by: K.D.Nambudripad
Reference Book     : "Nithyakarmam" by Kanippayyoor Sankaran Nambudiripad, 9th Edition, 1174 ME, published by Panchamgom Press, Kunnamkulam,Thrissur dist., Kerala.

Home | What is New.. | Members | Welcome, Sponsors ! | Search For.. | Your Feedback

Copyright © 2000 Namboothiri Websites Calicut. All rights reserved.