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The term "Shodasakriyakal" refers to sixteen rites to be performed by all Namboothiris, as structured through "Smruthi". A Namboothiri male member, after performing these sixteen Grihya (or household) rites, becomes eligible to perform Sroutha rites like Yaagams. Some of them are meant also for female members.

Knowledge in the Vedic classification of Namboothiris is a basic necessity in understanding this article. There are four Vedams namely Rigvedam, Yajurvedam, Saamavedam and Atharvavedam. Namboothiris follow only the first three. Two different recensions among Rigvedi Namboothiris are Kousheetakan and Aaswalaayanan, and among Yajurvedi Namboothiris, Boudhaayanan and Baadhoolakan. Saamavedi Brahmanans also have different recensions but among Namboothiris all are of Jaimitheeya recension.

Shodasakriyakal are:

1. Sekom (Garbhaadhaanam) : A rite to be performed just before the first sexual intercourse after marriage.
2. Pumsavanom : To be performed just after conception.
3. Seemantham : Performed after Pumsavanom.
4. Jathakarmam : Performed just after birth.
5. Naamakaranam : Christening.
6. (Upa)nishkramanam (Vaathilpurappadu) : Involves taking the child out of the house for the first time.
7. Choroonu : The first ceremonial intake of rice by the child.
8. Choulam : The first hair-cut ceremony of the boy/ girl.
9. Upanayanam : (Only for boys) A fairly long ritual of converting/ confirming a Namboothiri boy into a Brahmanaan and for initiating him to Brahmachaari.
10. Mahaanamneevrutham (Aanduvrutham) : An year-long process of studying Vedams by chanting it under strict guidance. Muthalmura is part of it. Those Namboothiri classes which are excluded from Vedam, perform this but stops at Muthalmura.
11. Mahaavrutham : Study of Braahmanam and Aaranyakam through chanting under strict guidance. Those Namboothiri classes which are excluded from Vedam, do not perform this.
12. Upanishadvrutham : Studying Upanishads. Namboothiris who are excluded from Vedam, do not perform this.
13. Godaanam : Rites as part of thanks-giving to the Aacharyan (priest or teacher).
14. Samaavarthanam : A long ritual for the completion of the above said Vedic education.
15. Marriage
16. Agniadhaanam : A rite performed as an extension of Oupaasanam and introduction to Sroutha rites.

Only a very abbreviated idea of the rites is given here; books/manuals/priests should be consulted for actual performance.

In the Manthrams of all the rites, prayers and offerings to Agni (fire, as a god) is an integral part. For convenience, we begin with the summary of Manthrams and procedures of marriage, the 15th "Shodasakriya". Before marriage, all the earlier "Shodasakriyas" should have been performed. "Punyaham", a rite for assuring pollution-free surroundings and smooth functioning of the subsequent ceremonies, is mandatory before every rite. To know more about Punyaham, Click Here.

15. Marriage : Marriage within the Namboothiri community, supported by rituals in the traditional manner, is considered as Namboothiri marriage. Marriage of Namboothiri boy with a girl from another caste, is "Sambandham", which is considered as just a casual relationship. No such name has been given to the marriage between a Namboothiri girl and boy from another caste.

Marriage is "Veli" for bridegroom's party and "Penkoda" (sending off a girl to another family, as wife), for bride's family. The bride is called "Kudi".

"Ayaniyoonu" precedes marriage. Ayaniyoonu" is a process of having traditional bathing and lunch, at an auspicious time. Since most marriages are performed in the bride's residence, the groom starts from his residence, after Ayaniyoonu. For Rigvedis and Saamavedis, both the bride and the groom perform it from own residence, simultaneously. Ayaniyoonu varies slightly for Yajurvedi Namboothiris. Yajurvedi bridegroom conducts Ayaniyoonu along with the bride just before marriage.

Marriage is a four-day ceremony. Till some time back, the bride's body used to be covered fully with unbleached long cloth, in traditional manner. "Veiled bride concept" for marriage was practised extensively till 1960's and rarely till 1980's.


The Namboothiris observed the custom of "Ghosha" or veil till recently. Though elsewhere the Braahmanan women neither looked at nor spoke to outside males other than those of the family, among Namboothiri community, this restriction extended also to the brothers of their husbands. The Ghosha was mutual, in both directions.

The general practice among most of the communities is to address brothers' wives as sisters. However, among Namboothiris, sisters-in-law are referred to as "Athemmar" and in return, Antharjanams refer to their brothers-in-law as "Moossaamboori" or "Elemboori" (among Aasyans) as outsiders do. But, Aadhyan Antharjanams refer them as "Valliachhan" or "Apphan" as called by their children. It is also well-known that Namboothiri women can have only one husband, and even widow-marriage was not permitted. Female adultery resulted in Smaarthavichaaram and Bhrashtu or excommunication (Click here) if proven. Such exacting standards are seen only among the Namboothiri community.

Manu had prescribed that if a married elder brother dies without progeny, the younger brother may be permitted to produce children through her. Technically known as "Niyogam", this is also a form of "Sahodara Bharthruthwam", and was not accepted by Namboothiris.

Source: "Namboothirimaarute Poorva Charithram" (Early History of Namboothiris)
By: Aadiriyedathu Neelakandhan Bhattathiripad
In: "Prabandhangal" (Essays)
Published by: Yogakshema Upasabha, Manjeri.

Marriage starts with a four-hour long ritual on the first day. The whole process of marriage is full of Manthrams. Some are intended to pray to the different gods individually to bless the couple. Gods like Devi, Pooshavu, Indran, Varunan (god of rain), Vayu (god of wind), Soman (protector of the earth), Bruhaspathy (protector of Manthrams), Agni (fire-god), Panthadevi (God of ariel paths) are separately addressed to. Several pledges by the couples for being generous, kind, non-violent, knowledgeable, punctual in rituals, etc. are also taken through Manthrams.

Namboothiris believe that the bride has been under protection of Soman, Gandharvan and Agni during infancy, childhood and as a youth, respectively, and that Viswavasa protects her virginity. Hence the bridegroom has to please these gods through Manthrams and rituals, thank them for protecting her till marriage, and marry her in the presence of Agni. Groom does several rituals along with the bride. Some of them are:

This 4-day long marriage process has recently been shortened to 3 or 4 hours by symbolically performing all the above processes.

1.Sekom: The 4-day process of marriage ends with Sekom (symbolic insemination), just before and after the first sexual intercourse, in the first night, that is, the night of day-4. It is supported by Vedic chanting.

2.Pumsavanom: "Pumsavanom" rite has to be performed just after the sexual intercourse intending to give birth to a child. Since the result is unpredictable just after the intercourse, this rite is usually performed on an auspicious day during the third month of pregnancy. If this is not possible, it may be done in the 4th, 6th or 7th month. The husband, through a Manthram, asks his wife whether the "medicine" she "consumed" intends to conceive a girl or a boy. She answers that she is Pumsavanam which means she consumed it intending to give birth to a son. It is followed by a request by the husband to God, through another Manthram, to educe the concept of pregnancy, to pave way for it to the womb, to remain there for ten months and to give birth to a healthy and intelligent child. Manthrams are recited intended to develop female fertility, to advise the wife on the role of mother, for enabling breast-feeding (after delivery), to make children powerful, for the long-life of children and to remove several other hurdles during pregnancy. Vedic chanting (Manthrams) intended for purifying semen as well as the uterus is also done. This ritual takes around 90 minutes.

3.Seemantham: Seemantham is to be performed in the 4th month of pregnancy, but after "Pumsavanam". If this is not possible, it may be done in the 6th, or 7th month. Manthrams are intended to purify the foetus and to request Brahmavu, Agni, Ragadevi, Vishnu, Soman and Gangadevi to protect it, to make the delivery smooth and to make the son intelligent. It takes about one hour. Saamavedi Namboothiris perform Seemantham only for the first child.

4.Jaathakarmam: It has to be performed on the child by the father (in his absence, a relative), preferably within 90 "Naazhikas" (36 hours. 1 Naazhika = 24 minutes) after birth or on an auspicious day. Manthrams are intended to request God to bring longlife, intelligence, memory power, and to make the infant studious, wealthy and powerful. Some of the Manthrams are chanted to formally welcome the child to the family. Through a Manthram, the father tells the child "You are born out of my semen, hence you are myself. You will be known as my child. You will live (as my son/ daughter) for 100 years". During Jaathakarmam, a mixture of ghee (melted butter) and honey is given to the infant as a base for its various foods in the future. This rite takes around 45 minutes. After Jaathakarmam, Saamavedi Namboothris perform "Thalakkal Homam" daily during the first 10 days.

5.Naamakaranam (Christening): Naamakaranam is the process of giving a name to the infant, on the 11th or preferably 12th day after birth. If that day is otherwise not auspicious then perform it on the next auspicious day. After `Punyaaham', either the father or a close paternal relative of the child, performs it by reciting "You are Krishna Sarma" or "You are Savithri da". Krishna and Savithri, here, are to be replaced by the child's name. The Namboothiri boys have surname `Sarma' and the girls, `Da'. More Manthrams are chanted to purify the child.

6.(Upa)nishkraamanam (Vaathil purappadu): Nishkraamanam ceremony involves taking the child out of the house for the first time, on an auspicious day (in the fourth month after birth) or along with Choroonu. Father takes the child out, visits a holy tree and comes back. Saamavedi Namboothiris perform it on the 10th day after birth.

7.Choroonu: Choroonu is the ritual of feeding the child with rice for the first time. Rice is the primary food of a Namboothiri, which is why the first intake of purified rice is celebrated on an auspicious day. After Punyaaham, Manthrams are chanted to request Agni to purify the food. A mixture of melted ghee and honey, followed by boiled rice are served to the child. It is performed in the 6th month or after 7th month of birth. The 7th month is inauspicious for Choroonu.

8.Choulam: It is a process of the child's first haircut by Seethikan (a subclass of Nair community) in the presence of family servants (Adiyaar) on an auspicious day. Girl's choulam ends here. Boy, for the first time in his life, chants Manthrams intended to integrate Bruhaspathy (Brahman, Priest of Devans) into himself to enable him to perform rituals in his life. Other Manthrams include several prayers to gods, knife and the barber. Kousheetakan Namboothiris do not chant Manthrams to knife and barber. Being the maiden performance, the boy begs pardon for his imperfect pronunciation while chanting Manthrams and mistakes while performing rituals. After Choulam, the concept of "Sudham" (the concept of being tidy and free from pollution) commences in his/her life. After Choulam, the rite of Kathukuthal (piercing the ear lobe) is performed, on another auspicious day, for both boys and girls. Choulam is performed during the 3rd, 5th, 7th year or later but before Upanayanam.

9.Upanayanam: Upanayanam is the beginning of the process of confirming Namboothirihood on a Namboothiri boy. Since Upanayanam is considered as a re-birth of the boy, its "Muhurtham" (auspicious time) should be carefully selected so as to remove the unfavourable aspects in the boy's horoscope. It is performed usually during the 5th, 7th or preferably the 8th year. It is roughly a 4-hour long ritual.

Usually for the first son, the priest (Aachaaryan) in this ceremony is his father himself. But sometimes, for the second and later children, one of the boy's paternal uncles may come forward to act as Aachaaryan. It is important that the boy has to perform the last rites of his Upanayanam Aachaaryan. Traditionally, only the eldest son marry from Namboothiri community. By becoming Aachaaryan in Upanayanam, his paternal uncle thus ensures that there will be somebody to do the last rites after death.

Aachaaryan who performs Upanayanam of the boy, as blessed by Sun, assumes charge of Aswi, Pooshavu and Prajapathi. He then confirms Namboothirihood on the boy and leads him to education. During the process, the Aachaaryan logically deposits a part of himself in the boy's soul. He teaches the boy to perform Kaalu kazhukal, Aachamanam and traditional bathing (all as part of keeping absolute cleanliness) and advises the boy to continue to perform these throughout the life. Also he advises not to sleep during daytime, and to study Vedam all by themselves. A teacher is very much necessary. The Aacharyan then blesses the boy and starts education. This process usually takes a day. The boy is then called Brahmachaari and the period till "Samaavarthanam" is called Braahmacharyam. During Braahmacharyam, the boy is supposed to study Vedam and received traditional advices.

During Braahmacharyam the boy performs daily rites like "Ookkal" (offering "Arghyam") as part of Sandhyaa vandanam. It starts by around 5 a m (in Braahma muhurtham). After sunrise, the boy proceeds to "Samidhaadaanam" [or Chamathayidal or Chamatha (flame of the forest - Butea) in short], which is a Homam, (or ritual using fire). Sandhyaavandanam and Samidhaadaanam are repeated at dusk, too. After morning Samidhaadaanam, Japam and Namaskaaram commence. The Japam (or chanting of hymns) is repeated 1000 times. The whole process of Ookkal, Sandhyaavandanam, Samidhaadaanam, Japam and Namaskaaram are together called "Thevaaram". Food is taken only after Thevaaram. Thevaaram goes on to till about 10 a m. During Braahmacharyam, Muthira (flat gram), Kayam (asafoetida), Onion, Uluva (fenugreek seeds), outside-made coconut oil and pappadam, etc. are not allowed, with food. The style of Namaskaaram changes, once the boy starts the lessons in Vedams, to Suryanamaskaaram, a slightly more difficult exercise as an offering to Sun, by chanting specific Vedamanthrams. Each step in suryanamaskaaram has several body positions and this exercise is usually repeated 108 to 150 times, which, later enhances to 120 to 200 times. During Thevaaram and while taking food, the boy is supposed to speak only in Sanskrit. After Thevaaram and food, the daily classes of Vedam start. The objectives of these daily classes and subsequent homework are meant to learn the entire Vedam by heart. Average and less intelligent boys take a long time (say 8 to 10 years) to complete this formal education while intelligent boys complete it in around 6 to 7 years. Classes and homework are continued strictly till evening rituals, which are mostly the same as Thevaaram, described above. Six holidays, consisting of two Ashtami days and Pradosham to Prathipadam (4 days), are allowed per month. (To know more about Vedam and testing process, Click Here). Before Samaavarthanam, various steps to be performed are the processes of advising Upanishads, Braahmanams and Aaranyakams to the boy in the following three steps. If a boy wants to change from Kausheetakan to Badhoolakan recension, Upanayanam is the stage. Once a boy starts with the Manthrams of Kausheetakan recension, he has to remain as Kausheetakan till his death. This is applicable to all the five Braahmanan recensions. It is to be noted that a girl changes her recension during her marriage. After marriage, she automatically becomes the recension of her husband.

10.Mahanaamneevrutham (Aanduvrutham): This is an year-long process for studying Vedams by chanting it under strict guidance. In olden days, the boy was supposed to study the complete text (Samhitha) of all the three Vedams namely Rigvedam, Yajurvedam and Saamavedam, irrespective of the Vedic tradition of his family. Since it takes several years the studies were restricted to his family's Vedam. Muthalmura, the training to the boy to achieve perfection in Vedic chanting, is part of it. It has to be noted that Kousheetakan Namboothiris are to be trained in the Baashkala Samhitha (text) but they are now being trained in the Saakala Samhitha, which is meant for Aaswalaayanan Namboothiris. Similarly, the Badhoolakan Namboothiris are to get trained in Suklayajurvedam but they are currently being trained in Krishnayajurvedam, which is meant for Boudhaayanan Namboothiris. Aaswalaayanan, Boudhaayanan and Samaveda Namboothiris follow Samhitas originally meant for them. But in practice (like, in "Kriya" and "Yagam"), each of these five recensions follows its own tradition.

11.Mahaavrutham: It is a 12-day long rite as part of studying Braahmanam and Aaranyakam by chanting it under strict guidance. Braahmanam contains the Vedic text for the rites to be performed in Yaagams. Aaranyakam contains the Vedic text which helps the boy for information and knowledge base creation.


Everybody knows that, according to the Vedic classification of Namboothiris, there are five classes, namely, Kausheethakan (Rigvedi), Aaswalaayanan (Rigvedi), Baudhaayanan (Yajurvedi), Baadhoolakan (Yajurvedi) and Jaimineeyan (Saamavedi). We also know that Namboothiris of each of these classes have to study Samhitha, Braahmanam, Aaranyakam and Upanishad, to complete their Vedic education. The prescribed texts for studying each of these four lessons for each of these five classes are slightly different. The following table gives the name of the prescribed text.

No. Vedam School Samhitha Braahmanam Aaranyakam Upanishad Srautha Sutram
Rigvedam Saakala/Bhaskala Rik Aitareyam Aitareyam Aitareyam Aaswalaayana
Rigvedam Saakala/Bhaskala Rik Kausheethaki
Yajurvedam Krishna Yajurveda-
Thaithireeyam Thaithireeyam Thaithireeyam Thaithireeyam Baudhaayana
Yajurvedam Krishna Yajurveda-
Thaithireeyam Thaithireeyam Thaithireeyam Thaithireeyam Baadhoolaka
Saamavedam Jaimineeya
Saamam Jaimineeya Nil Kena

12.Upanishadvrutham: It is also a 12-day ceremony for studying Upanishads. Earlier, the boy had to study Braahmanam, Aaranyakam and Upanishads completely, but later it was restricted to a 12-day rite. For Kousheethakan and Boudhaayanan Namboothiris, a three-day rite by name Sukriyam has to be performed befor the next step, Godaanam.

13.Godaanam: This is a ceremonial thanks-giving to the Aacharyan (priest or teacher). It is a 12-day process except for Kousheetakan Namboothiris, for whom it is a three-day process. Godaanam means Go-midhunam-daanam which means donating a cow and an ox couple to the Aacharyan, and supported by Manthrams.

14.Samaavarthanam: Samaavarthanam marks the boy's return to normal life after Vedic education. Samaavarthanam is usually conducted after the boy completes 14 years, for Boudhaayanan, Badhoolakan and Aaswalayanan Namboothiris. For Kousheethakan Namboothiris, it is conducted before completing 14 years. It has to be noted that long ago it was conducted only after successfully completing all the studies mentioned above. Later it was decided by Namboothiris to conduct Samaavarthanam after 5,400 days of his birth (in his 15th year). Also note that some books refer to conducting it in the 16th year. It is the 16th year after he was originally formed in his mother's womb. Saamavedi Namboothiri performs Samaavarthanam in the 11th year of birth.

Samaavarthanam starts with "Gurudakshina" and accepting the blessing from the teacher. Through Manthrams, prayers are made to various gods to protect his eyes, ears and legs and to make him known in the public, smart, acceptable, enlightened, long-lived, etc. Some Manthrams are intended to request the "dandu" (holy stick, which he carries always) to protect him from animals. The concept of Hiranyam (the enriched form of Agni) plays an important part here. Manthrams are chanted to take several pledges by the boy to perform various tasks, and not to be engaged in unwanted and unethical activities, all as advices by the teacher. After Samaavarthanam (now one calls the boy, a Namboothiri), he proceeds to advanced education, by selecting various fields like Mathematics, Astronomy, Vyaakaranam, Tharkam, Nyayam, Dharmam, Meemamsa, etc.

15.Marriage: Already discussed.

16.Agniadhaanam: Agniadhaanam is basically an Aadhaanam, an initial ceremony of his Sroutha performances in the future. It is a rite performed as an extension of Oupaasanam and an introduction to Sroutha rites to be performed in his further Vedic life. After successfully completing all the previous 15 rites in series, if he could complete Agniadhaanam rite perfectly, he becomes eligible to enter into Sroutha rites like Yaagam (Click here to know more about Aadhaanam).

| Article No:8.1 | Last update of this article:23rd May 2003 |
Article prepared by: P. Vinod Bhattathiripad, with inputs from
1. Naaraas Narayanan Namboodiri (Veteran Othikkan), Naaraath Mana, Edapal, Malappuram dt.
2. Dr. Naaraas Ravindran Namboodiri (Othikkan and vedic expert), Naaraath Mana, Edappal, Malappuram dt.
3. Prof: P.C.K.Namboodiripad (Thanthri), Perindiri Chennas Mana, Guruvayoor, Thrissur dt.
4. K.P.C.Anujan Bhattathiripad, Kunnathur Padinjaredath Mana, Cherpu, Thrissur dt.
5. Thottam Aryan Namboothiri, Panjaal
6. Nellikkattu Mammannu Vasudevan Namboothiri, Panjaal

Reference books:
1."Aaswalaayana Grihya Manthra" by Porakudinjam Published by P.G.N.Bhattathiripad, Post Choolissery-680548, Kerala, First Edition-1987
2."Rigvedam Bhaasha Bhaashyam" (Vol VIII) by O.M.C.Narayanan Namboodiripad, First Edition, 1986, Published by Vadakke Madham Bhramaswom, M.G.Road, Thrissur - 1.
3."Manthrartha Prakaasika" by Kodanad Narayanan Nambudiripad, IIIrd Edition, 1997, Published by Panchangam Press, Kunnamkulam, Thrissur dt.
4."Krishna Yajurvediya Boudhayana Chadangu" by Vakathanath Edamana A.M.Krishna Sarma, 4th Edition, 1172 (ME), Published by Panchangam Press, Kunnamkulam, Trissur dt.
5."Pakazhiyam Chadangu", published by Panchamgam press, Kunnamkulam, Thrissur dt.
6."Punyaham" by Chekrakal Krishnan Namboodiri, 1997 edition, Published by Yogakshema Sabha, Kozhikode-2.
7."Ente Smaranakal" by Kanippayyoor Sankaran Nambudiripad, 2nd Edition, 1171 (1995), Published by Panchangam Press, Kunnamkulam, Thrissur dt.
8."Baadhoolaka Chadangu" published by Panchamgam Press, Kunnamkulam, Thrissur dt.

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