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  1. #1
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    Bhagavathi Sevai

    Bagavathi Sevai is a special Puja which is performed by the Malayalees and Tamil Brahmins of Kerala.

    It is done in the evening/night. Devi Bagavathi is invoked (Avahanam) in a Big brass lamp. Puja consists of recital of Lalitha Sahasranama. It is also done by reciting Durga Sahasranama. The lamp lookes beautiful at the end of the puja with all the flowers heaped around it. Arali is the preferred flower.

    The eleventh chapter of the Devi Mahatmyam is recited at the end of the Bagavathi Sevai.

    While reciting the priest and all those present do Namaskaram at the end of each verse ending with Narayani Namoasthudhe. Thus it is also called Namaskara Japam.

    Doing so many sashtanga Namaskarams one after the other is a back bending exercise.

    Of course in the typical Brahmin tradition most of the comments at the end of the puja would be about the quality of Aravanai. Aravanai is a variation of Nei Payasam.

    In Bhavani Sahasranama MAA is called Gudaanna Priyayai namah!

    I request the members to share their experiences of Bhagavathi Sevai.

    Jai MAA KAALI !!!
    யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்.

    நச்சினார்க்கினியன்.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nacchinarkiniyan View Post
    Bagavathi Sevai is a special Puja which is performed by the Malayalees and Tamil Brahmins of Kerala.

    It is done in the evening/night. Devi Bagavathi is invoked (Avahanam) in a Big brass lamp. Puja consists of recital of Lalitha Sahasranama. It is also done by reciting Durga Sahasranama. The lamp lookes beautiful at the end of the puja with all the flowers heaped around it. Arali is the preferred flower.

    The eleventh chapter of the Devi Mahatmyam is recited at the end of the Bagavathi Sevai.

    While reciting the priest and all those present do Namaskaram at the end of each verse ending with Narayani Namoasthudhe. Thus it is also called Namaskara Japam.

    Doing so many sashtanga Namaskarams one after the other is a back bending exercise.

    Of course in the typical Brahmin tradition most of the comments at the end of the puja would be about the quality of Aravanai. Aravanai is a variation of Nei Payasam.

    In Bhavani Sahasranama MAA is called Gudaanna Priyayai namah!

    I request the members to share their experiences of Bhagavathi Sevai.

    Jai MAA KAALI !!!
    I venture to post since conditions like "only those who believe in Bhagavati Seva (BS) are allowed to post" etc., have, mysteriously, not been put.

    BS is, IMHO, of Namboodiri origin. According to their much-valued grantha called "Keralolpatti" Parasurama threw his axe from Gokarnam and raised the land mass between Kanyakumari and Gokarnam and donated it to 64 Namboodiri groups or villages. For the protection of these "chosen people" of Parasurama, he also erected temples dedicated to siva and bhagavathy in those villages. The term "bhagavathy" itself is etymologically interesting but I leave it here because the orthodoxy will find it extremely inconvenient. Suffice it to say that Bhagavathy Seva became a typical Malayalee mode of worship.

    Originally, only the moolamantra ॐ ह्रीं दुम् दुर्गायै नमः om̐ hrī dum durgāyai nama (used to be recited 1008 times and durga trisatee was read along with the Chapters V and XI of Devee bhagavatham. This has undergone many changes with time and "yajamaana preferences" and so, today, we may find very little of moolamantra repetition but a mass reading of Lalitaa Sahasranamam, sometimes even in different Karnatik ragas (if the yajamaana's daughter or young wife has supposedly learnt those tunes!). The namaskaram part is with the slokas with the refrain "namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo namaH" in Ch.5 of Devee Maahaatmyam; this has now been bracketed and the assistant vadhyaar (a young jobless fellow who could not make himself fit for even medical transcription job) does the individual namaskarams (Vadhyar with his prominent "tonti" doing it will most surely result in 108 - the state's free emergency ambulance in Kerala - being summoned ), while the rest of the crowd perform only the last one/few.

    "Aravanai" and "bahooseva vadai (BV)" are the sines qua non for this pooja. Making good aravanai is rare today and will require the bronze "uruLi" vessel usually weighing upwards of 20 kgs even for making one kg of rice aravanai. To lift it from the gas or electric stove is a task by itself. So people settle for Aluminium uruLis and the results are usually second grade. I am told that the word “aravaṇa” means that “aravu” + “aṇa”, i.e., அரையல் + அணைவது (அணுகுவது) something which very much nears rice having been ground to a paste in jaggery and ghee. But the real taste comes only when the rice is not cooked fully and is sensed by the tongue as soft and sweet individual particles!

    BV is still seen. Rough in texture, not thick or soft like medu vada, but same ingredients except that instead of red chiliies, pepper only to be used.

    The pooja is semi-tantric, with an elaborate "padmam" (rangoli-like tantric design a la sreechakram and usually the cognoscenti invariably take to “bindu-trikona-vasukona”, the verse) being marked for the main lamp and two subsidiary "padmams" one for Ganapathi and another for ? representing the "adhidevata" and "pratyadhidevata" of bhagavathi.

    Today, the BS serves more as an occasion for social gathering for an apparently very laudable objective and flaunting one's purchasing power and religiosity among fellow community members in that guise. Tabra Vadhyars make a good income (usually ranging from Rs.2000/= upwards - the sky is the limit!) A few Tulu brahmans and very rarely Namboodiris in northern Kerala come forward to perform this pooja for others. But they do not allow the ostentation, the chatter, the "singing" of Lalita Sahasranaamam songs or even its loud reading but stick to the age-old practices strictly.

    श्रेयो भूयात् सकलजनानाम् ।
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  4. #3
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    Vilakku Poojai

    Bagavathi Sevai has been adapted in Tamil Nadu as Vilakku Poojai. This was started a couple of decades back by some of the Swamijis. Now it has become very common.

    Unlike Bagavathi Sevai, Vilakku Pujai is done by women. It is performed by a group of women doing their own pujai on a lamp. The avahanam is done by the women themselves with a sasthirigal reciting the Avahana mantras and the women repeating it. Of course there are many variations.

    Vilakku Pujai is conducted in temples by organizations. Some of the anmeeka magazines like Alayam do it monthly in different temples. Mata Amrithanandamayi used to organize the Vilakku Pujais. She is very much in favour of it.

    Sangom has given a detailed explanation about the origin and conduct of the Bagavathi Sevai. But then there are variations like Narayani Studhi (11th chapter) replacing the Aparajidha Studhi(5th chapter). Then some Pundits believe that Bagavathi Sevai has to be finished before a certain time in the night.

    Practices vary between sampradhayas.

    I have seen a hall full of people performing Sashtanga namaskarams. I can still remember the time when at the time of Grahapravesam of my first house, my father reciting the Narayani sthudhi and all of us performing the namaskarams. My father also did it. He was past 80 then.
    யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்.

    நச்சினார்க்கினியன்.
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  6. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nacchinarkiniyan View Post
    Bagavathi Sevai has been adapted in Tamil Nadu as Vilakku Poojai. This was started a couple of decades back by some of the Swamijis. Now it has become very common.

    Unlike Bagavathi Sevai, Vilakku Pujai is done by women. It is performed by a group of women doing their own pujai on a lamp. The avahanam is done by the women themselves with a sasthirigal reciting the Avahana mantras and the women repeating it. Of course there are many variations.

    Vilakku Pujai is conducted in temples by organizations. Some of the anmeeka magazines like Alayam do it monthly in different temples. Mata Amrithanandamayi used to organize the Vilakku Pujais. She is very much in favour of it.

    Sangom has given a detailed explanation about the origin and conduct of the Bagavathi Sevai. But then there are variations like Narayani Studhi (11th chapter) replacing the Aparajidha Studhi(5th chapter). Then some Pundits believe that Bagavathi Sevai has to be finished before a certain time in the night.

    Practices vary between sampradhayas.

    I have seen a hall full of people performing Sashtanga namaskarams. I can still remember the time when at the time of Grahapravesam of my first house, my father reciting the Narayani sthudhi and all of us performing the namaskarams. My father also did it. He was past 80 then.
    Vilakku Poojai is now called "aiswarya pooja" (ap) in Kerala side. Women of all age groups get a sort of importance in such aps and so this new brand of pooja is now very popular. The Attukaal Devi (Kannakiyamman) Temple in TVPM does this pooja on full moon days (I think) and the crowd (of females) coming there is to be seen to be believed! I have not gone there for this purpose but from the number of oil lamps (vilakku) being prepared I will guess that not less than a thousand devotees must be doing the pooja on an average. Of course the whole thing is hi-tech, loudspeakers blaring out the mantras (mainly aiswarya sukta or Lakshmee sukta) and many items as suits the publicity of the particular deity. Admission is egalitarian and so women belonging to NB castes throng such poojas.
    श्रेयो भूयात् सकलजनानाम् ।
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    Namaste,

    Is there any book which gives the complete procedure for doing Bhagawati Sevai?

    In the pujas I have observed there are only two "viLakkus", big one for ambaaL and a slightly smaller one for "ganapathi or Maha Ganapathi (I understand Maha Ganapathi of tantras is different from the normal Ganapathi we associate. Is it so?) Are there are two variations of the puja, one with two lamps and the other one with three lamps?

    I have also observed that when Namboodris do the puja, they do a lot of mudras or nyasas and they do not utter any of the mantras aloud. What are these mudras and where can one get a write up on them?

    Is it necessary to be initiated for doing the puja?

    Any info will be appreciated.

    Regards

    narayan
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  10. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by zebra16 View Post
    Namaste,

    Is there any book which gives the complete procedure for doing Bhagawati Sevai?
    Shri Narayan,

    You may try giri trading co in Chennai or R.S. Vadhyar & sons, Palghat.

    In the pujas I have observed there are only two "viLakkus", big one for ambaaL and a slightly smaller one for "ganapathi or Maha Ganapathi (I understand Maha Ganapathi of tantras is different from the normal Ganapathi we associate. Is it so?) Are there are two variations of the puja, one with two lamps and the other one with three lamps?
    Bhagavathy is expected to be “poojified” along with the adhidevataa and pratyadhidevataa; the former is supposed to be the family deity, the latter the deity in whose immediate presence the devata which is propitiated gives optimum results. Now don’t ask me or any orthodox person as to who decided (found out) the family deity of Bhagavathy etc. J

    Ganapathy is supposed to be the same but a tantric deity has to be propitiated in the tantric way only not mantrika.

    I have also seen some people doing the BS with two oil lamps only but this has, by far, been rare. I do not know the reason. Till now I am under the impression that the pratyadhidevataa is not being worshipped in the pseudo-tantric way there, perhaps because the priest does not know the procedure.
    I have also observed that when Namboodris do the puja, they do a lot of mudras or nyasas and they do not utter any of the mantras aloud. What are these mudras and where can one get a write up on them?
    Generally Namboodiris give more emphasis for the “Tantra” aspects than to the mantras. Tulu brahmanas who historically were closely associated with the Namboodiris, also follow the same, I feel. But tabra priests give more importance to the uttered mantras and their sounds than to the Tantric details. Our tabra clientele also prefer this to the Namboodiri type.

    “mudra” in Sanskrit means gesture, sealing, locking, mystery. The various signs (which will look like “goshTis” to the ignorant) are supposed to give expression in a sort of emphatic manner, to the sense of the pronounced mantras. I shall give just one easy example: each item offered to the deity as “naivedyam” (for Its eating) is supposed to be purified with a sprinkling of pure cow’s ghee (and nothing else). We normally sprinkle a few drops of whatever ghee we can procure; but the deity will not be satisfied with that, it has to be pure ghee taken from cow’s milk. The Tantric mudra plays its part here. The priest shows the “Dhenumudra”(see attached img) and lo! the deity, in this case Bhagavathy, is supposed to be satisfied that the mandatory sprinkling with cow’s ghee has been done and that too, properly

    Note : This is only a “rough” indication of the “Dhenumudra”; there are many different ways of showing it.

    You may see some of the mudras used in various poojas here. Mudras used in Hindu worship

    Is it necessary to be initiated for doing the puja?
    This is necessary. AFAIK, the moolamantra has to be obtained by initiation and recited “aksharalaksham” times (one lakh for each Sanskrit akshara in it.) and then the pooja vidhi is to be learned. However, some tabra purohits scrupulously avoid this because, in their view, this BS is left-handed tantra and hence produces enormous harm to the one who performs the pooja and his descendants for 7 generations. There is some reason to support such a view because even the priests who perform the BS insist that the deepaaraadhana should be over within the first yaamam of the night, i.e., sunset + 3 hours. If sunset is at 18.30 hrs, then the aarati should be over and bhagavathy should be asked to quit the place before 21.30 hrs; otherwise, by the second yaamam, the bhagavathy becomes an evil deity like Kaali and any pooja done goes waste.

    Attached Images Attached Images
    श्रेयो भूयात् सकलजनानाम् ।
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    Namaste Sri Sangom,

    Thank you for the very informative article (msg. no. 6 of 12.05.2011)

    Regards,

    narayan
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    Quote Originally Posted by sangom View Post
    Shri Narayan,

    You may try giri trading co in Chennai or R.S. Vadhyar & sons, Palghat.

    Bhagavathy is expected to be “poojified” along with the adhidevataa and pratyadhidevataa; the former is supposed to be the family deity, the latter the deity in whose immediate presence the devata which is propitiated gives optimum results. Now don’t ask me or any orthodox person as to who decided (found out) the family deity of Bhagavathy etc. J

    Ganapathy is supposed to be the same but a tantric deity has to be propitiated in the tantric way only not mantrika.

    I have also seen some people doing the BS with two oil lamps only but this has, by far, been rare. I do not know the reason. Till now I am under the impression that the pratyadhidevataa is not being worshipped in the pseudo-tantric way there, perhaps because the priest does not know the procedure.
    Generally Namboodiris give more emphasis for the “Tantra” aspects than to the mantras. Tulu brahmanas who historically were closely associated with the Namboodiris, also follow the same, I feel. But tabra priests give more importance to the uttered mantras and their sounds than to the Tantric details. Our tabra clientele also prefer this to the Namboodiri type.

    “mudra” in Sanskrit means gesture, sealing, locking, mystery. The various signs (which will look like “goshTis” to the ignorant) are supposed to give expression in a sort of emphatic manner, to the sense of the pronounced mantras. I shall give just one easy example: each item offered to the deity as “naivedyam” (for Its eating) is supposed to be purified with a sprinkling of pure cow’s ghee (and nothing else). We normally sprinkle a few drops of whatever ghee we can procure; but the deity will not be satisfied with that, it has to be pure ghee taken from cow’s milk. The Tantric mudra plays its part here. The priest shows the “Dhenumudra”(see attached img) and lo! the deity, in this case Bhagavathy, is supposed to be satisfied that the mandatory sprinkling with cow’s ghee has been done and that too, properly

    Note : This is only a “rough” indication of the “Dhenumudra”; there are many different ways of showing it.

    You may see some of the mudras used in various poojas here. Mudras used in Hindu worship

    This is necessary. AFAIK, the moolamantra has to be obtained by initiation and recited “aksharalaksham” times (one lakh for each Sanskrit akshara in it.) and then the pooja vidhi is to be learned. However, some tabra purohits scrupulously avoid this because, in their view, this BS is left-handed tantra and hence produces enormous harm to the one who performs the pooja and his descendants for 7 generations. There is some reason to support such a view because even the priests who perform the BS insist that the deepaaraadhana should be over within the first yaamam of the night, i.e., sunset + 3 hours. If sunset is at 18.30 hrs, then the aarati should be over and bhagavathy should be asked to quit the place before 21.30 hrs; otherwise, by the second yaamam, the bhagavathy becomes an evil deity like Kaali and any pooja done goes waste.

    Very informative,

    Thanks a lot for the explanation.

    We have the BS every year in our house and my father persists that the pooja has to be done by a namboodri as the Tantric part is the most important part of BS(Due to his Kerela Roots).
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  16. #9
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    When I started this thread about Bhagavathi Sevai, it was with an idea of talking about a Puja which is very popular in Kerala.


    The basic puja is to bring the Devi into a lamp (avahanam) and then recite Llitha Sahasranamam and portions of Devi Mahatmyam. The Devi is Durga.


    Now this is a Tantrik ritual. It involves Yantra, Mantra and Tantra. Tantra is basically a set of procedures. Now what Yantra, Mantra and Tantrik procedures are followed will vary between traditions or sampradhayas. Some people recite Devi Atharvaseersham at the time of Avahanam. This is a sampradhaya.


    Now if you ask me why Lalitha sahsranamam is recited when the Deity is Durga and not Durga Sahasranamam which would be more apt, I have no answer. It is the tradition. I could recite Durga orr Bhavani Sahasranama. That does not change the basic nature of the Bhagavathi Sevai.


    Then if someone has to ask a question as to how Kali is considered an evil deity while reciting Devi Mahatmyam where Kali plays an important role as the slayer of Chanda and Munda (she is henceforth known as Chamunda) there can not be an answer. It is a belief of some people.


    Again in Durga Astotra which is often recited before Devi Mahatmyam we recite" Bhowmasyam Nishamagre Chandre...." That is that sloka is to be recited at mid night or best results. Now this would shock many Tamil and Kerala Brahmins who think that Nishi Puja or midnight Puja is prohibited. Midnight Puja on Pournami night has become fairly common in Tamil Nadu today. It is done by some Gurus.


    It is only a question of belief and tradition.


    Now the Tamil Brahmins who perform this Bhagavathi Sevai are initiated properly into the Mantras and procedures. They perform it according to the sampradhaya to which they belong. That does not make it inferior.


    Avahanam can be done in many ways. There are subtle changes in different sampradhayas. Even the Nyasa mudras vary. Nyasas vary. Yantras vary. The Tamil Brahmins perform it in the prescribed Tantrik way.


    Such variations in the method are allowed. Many procedures are secret and are passed only from Guru to Shishya. Can not be learnt from a book. Some are written in manuscripts as shown often in TV serials and movies.


    I am writing all these because of an implication that Tamil Brahmins do not perform Bhagavathi Sevai properly. This is not true. Good Pundits do it well whether they are Namboodiris or Tamil Brahmins. We (Namboodiris and Tamil Brahmins) are all worried that the commercialization of Pujas and other rituals have led to people cutting corners and not performing the rituals properly. This is from my interaction with many Namboodiri pundits (mostly from Kottayam and Trichur).

    There are lot of misguided beliefs about mantra and tantra among many Tamil Brahmins. I know of Namboothiri Manas who have performed Bhagavathi Seva and Mantrikam from the days of Itheeka Mala (who are mentioned therein) and who are still very prosperous.
    யாதும் ஊரே யாவரும் கேளிர்.

    நச்சினார்க்கினியன்.
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