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"Vaaram, Thrisanddha, Othoottu" and "Panchasanddha"

These refer to the various forms of obeisance (Upaasana). Though the chanting of the Vedam texts not only as a structured method for perfecting the same, but also with the hope to derive the consequent divine benefits and a feeling of purification. They were invariably held in the spiritual and serene atmosphere of temples. The Vaarams and Thrisanddhas were performed by Rigvedis, the latter also by Saamavedis, and Othoottu and Panchasanddhas by Yajurvedis. Brief discussions follow.

* In some parts (esp north) of Kerala, the year starts from Kanni.
1.Vaaram: The 41 days beginning with the first day of Malayalam month, Vrischikam (mid-November, see Box) are called "Mandalam" or "Mandalakkaalam" ("Mandalam" period), an auspicious period for worship and offerings in temples. In most large Desam temples, "Vaaram" was conducted during the entire Mandalam period ("Mandala vaaram"), and often two or three weeks beyond in case of Vaarams pledged ("Vazhivaatu") by individuals.

Vaaram, a ritual conducted in temples, involves a kind of obeisance ("Upaasana") through recitation of the Vedam by learned Namboothiris seating themselves on the dais ("Mandapam") inside the temple. In Namboothiri parlance, it is also called "Vaaramirikkal". It is normally conducted at night, and is followed by dinner arranged in the temple. If it falls on a "Vaavu" (new or full-moon day), it is conducted either in the morning or sometimes postponed to the next day.

Apart from the Mandalam period, monthly Vaarams are often conducted on Rohini, Punartham, Uthram, Thiruvonam (stars, see Box), or bright Dwaadasi (see Box on Thithi) in Vishnu temples, or Thiruvaathira, dark Ashtami or Chathurdasi in Siva temples, and Bharani or Kaarthika in Bhagavathi temples.

Similarly, monthly "Othu" used to be conducted in many temples, on Bharani, Kaarthika, Rohini, Thiruvaathira or Thiruvonam. These are without the "Vaaramirikkal", and with the feast at noon.

In some temples, "Seva" used to be held involving feasting on 12, 7 or 3 continuous days, at noon, night or both.

2.Thrisanddha: This is another form of "Upaasana", in which the entire "Veda samhitha" (text) is recited every day from morning till evening, which may take roughly seven months. It starts in the morning everyday - except holidays ("anaddhyaayam") - after Sanddhyaavandanam and goes on till dinner at night, with breaks only for lunch and evening Sanddhyaavandanam. During meals (both are feasts), "Jata", "Rattha" and other recitation exercises are also performed. It is difficult to conduct "Thrisanddha" unless there are 50 - 60 Vedam exponents, daily.
Unlike Vaaram, Thrisanddha is not only an Upaasana, but also often involves competitions in Vedam recital, as in "Kadavallur Anyonyam" (Click here for Anyonyam), in Jata, Rattha, Varkkam and Vaaram. Owing to the competitive nature, there used to be an unwritten convention that, if Thrisanddha was held in one of the two Yogams - Thrissur and Thirunavaya - it would be held concurrently in the other too. The proficient ones from each Yogam would go to the other one and spiritedly compete with their experts. Such Thrisanddhas were held every 12 to 15 years on an average, but without any regular schedule.

That is for the Rigvedis; but similar Thrisanddhas were held by Saamavedis too, requiring about 10 months. Competitions were not held as they do not have two Yogams. Since there are only 21 Saamavedi families in Kerala, the attendance and the expenses were much lower.

3.Othoottu: Somewhat similar to Thrisanddha, this is also an Upaasana with Yajurvedam, the word having derived from "othu" for Vedam and "kottu" for a form of exercise in Yajurveda Upaasana. Two versions exist, the "valiya" (big) "kottu" and "cheriya" (small) "kottu". The whole recitation takes only about 1½ months, and would need 30 - 40 experts and feasting every day, as for Thrisanddha. (Click here for details)

1  Aswathi
2  Bharani
3  Kaarthika
4  Rohini
5  Makeeram
6  Thiruvathira
7  Punartham
8  Pooyam
9  Aayilyam
10 Makam
11 Pooram
12 Uthram
13 Atham
14 Chithra
15 Chothi
16 Visaakham
17 Anizham
18 Thrikketta
19 Moolam
20 Pooraatam
21 Uthraatam
22 Thiruvonam
23 Avittam
24 Chathayam
25 Poororuttaathi
26 Uthrattaathi
27 Revathi

4.Panchasanddha: This is similar to Othoottu, another Upaasana version with Yajurvedam. It lasts for about two months and also involves feasting. In olden days, Panchasanddha used to be held every 64 years in temples where Othoottu were held.

| Article No:4.7 | Last update of this article:4th November 2003 |
Source: "Ente Smaranakal" Vol. 2 by Kanippayyur Sankaran Nambudiripad (Publishers: Panchangam Press, Kunnamkulam)
English Translation: K.D. Nambudripad

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