*What is Bhikshavandanam ?*
அகரம் ஆயிரம் அந்தணர்க்கு ஈயில் என், சிகரம் ஆயிரம் செய்து முடிக்கில் என்
பகரும் ஞானி பகல் ஊண் பலத்துக்கு, நிகர் இலை என்பது நிச்சயம் தானே.
“Agaram Aayiram andanarkku eeyil yen , Sikaram aayiram seythu mudikkil yen
Pagaru Jnani pagal uun palathukku, Nigarilai enbadu nichchayanthane”
Feeding a fellow human being is one of the 32 dharmic acts a person should perform. A person earns great merit by performing annadhanam. Offering food to an Adiyar (one who serves the Lord) earns you merit that is multiplied several times over from the punya you normally earn with annadhanam.
**When a Jnani is fed, the merit earned is beyond measure. Offering food to a Jnani is called bhiksha. When you pray that he accepts the bhiksha you are offering, it is called bhikshavandanam.** In the Sri Mattham, bhikshas are performed by either individuals or groups of bhaktas, organizations and trusts. Many perform the Bhikshavandanam on a predetermined day every year.
The bhatkas procure the necessary vegetables, fruits and groceries needed for the bhiksha that day. Arriving at the Mattham, they get darshan of the Guru. During the pooja, they offer these items and pray to the Guru that he accepts their bhiksha. These items are then used for cooking the food for the day. They are used in the naiveydiyam to the Lord, the bhiksha of the Guru and are also served to the Adiyars (the people working in the Mattham). **Because of this, every bhakta that participates in the bhikshavandan acquires punya that is beyond measure, in the words of Thirumoolar.**
*Four types of Bhikshavandanam as observed at ShriMatam*
*Type 1 : Simple Bhikshavandanam:*
The simplest way to offer bhikshavandanam at Mattham is to pay the required amount at the office and take the sankalpam during the Chandramouleeswara pooja.
*Type 2: Traditional Bhikshavandanam:*
For those who wish to offer bhikshavandanam in a more traditional way, here are some guidelines: It is customary for the devotee to approach the Acharyas the previous day and inform them that he plans to offer bhikshavandanam the next day. While doing so, he should offer the Acharyas a set of vastram (which can be obtained at the Mattham office), along with raw rice, moong dal, jaggery, two coconuts, and kalkandu (rock candy). A similar offering should also be made at the Adhishtanam of Maha Periyaval.
On the day of bhikshavandanam, at the time of taking the sankalpam, the devotee offers honey, naatu chakkarai (crystillazed jaggery), vegetables, and fruits. These offerings are traditionally used in the pooja for abhishekam and neividyam to Sri Chandramouleeshwara and Tripurasundari. Fruits used in the pooja include malappazham (a variety of bananas), mangoes, sweet lime, lime, pomegranates, and sapota. Vegetables commonly offered are okra, green bananas, white/red pumpkin, snakegourd, yam, spinach, beans and tomatoes.
A silk pavadai for Tripurasundari stitched with silk thread and a silk veshti for Sri Chandramouleeshwara can also be offered. After the Acharyas have taken their bhiksha, the devotee, when prostrating before them, could offer dry fruits and a garland of bilva leaves. It is beneficial to the devotee to not consume any food containing salt until after the Acharyas have taken their bhiksha. Those with health problems could have milk or kanji.
*Type 3: Traditional and more elaborate Bhikshavandanam:*
For those devotees who wish to perform the bhikshavandanam in a more elaborate fashion, here are some ideas for the offerings they could make: Along with rice, devotees could offer various kinds of lentils and other grocery items which are used for general cooking. It is considered very auspicious to offer gold to the Acharyas when prostrating after their bhiksha. One could also offer a shawl and different kinds of garlands such as those made from cardamoms and cloves.
On Tuesdays and Fridays, the Mattham performs Suvasini Poojai and devotees performing bhikshavandanam on that day could include a nine-yard sari with a blouse in their bhiksha offerings. Devotees can also offer saris, blouses, and dhotis in their bhikshavandanam which the Mattham would then use for distribution to deserving people.
During the period of Navaratri, one could offer items that are useful in the poojas and homams that are held in the Mattham at that time. Offerings could include ghee, nine-yard saris which would be used in the Chandi Homam and Suvasini pooja, til oil, honey, figs. There are specialty shops in cities like Chennai that sell pre-packaged items that are used in homams. These could be offered as well.
*Type 4: Samashti Bhikshavandanams*
The most elaborate and traditional bhikshavandanams are those offered by groups of devotees who team up to pool their resources and offer, what is called, a ‘samashti bhikshavandanam’. These are typically offered during religious festivals such as Navaratri or Vasantha Navaratri. These bhikshavandanams are very elaborate and are often done in a tradition passed down by one generation to the next.
Samashti bhikshavandanams involve careful planning, coordination and hard work by a large, dedicated group of devotees. The offerings are made with great faith and purity of person and spirit. The samashti bhikshavandanams, a group prayer and offering made with piety, elevate the personal bhikshavandanam to a higher level. The blessings conferred by the Acharyas on such a bhikshavandanam benefit the larger community and not just the immediate family participating. Even for those who are able to perform such elaborate bhikshavandanams on their own, it is more auspicious to participate in a samashti bhikshavandanam, because the efficacy of a group prayer is much more than an individual one.
In Samashti Bhikshavandanams, the offering of items is at a larger level.
Rice, toor dal, channa dal, urid dal, jaggery, kalkandu, honey, gold, shawl, different lentils, rava, sugar, ghee, raisins, cashews, cardamom, til oil, coconut oil, coconut, different fruits (sweet lime, orange, guava , chickoo, apple, and pomegranate), poovan pazham and malappazham (local banana varieties) are offered at the Brindavan along with a large variety of vegetables. Traditional offerings of vastrams are made to all three Acharyas the previous day. Offerings on the day of pooja include sandalwood, honey, figs, cardamom, almonds, cashews, frankincense (saambrani), nutmeg (jaadikaai), mace (jaadipatri), saffron, Borneo camphor (pacha karpooram). Chickpea flour (kadala mavu), ghee, sugar, and cardamom are used in neivediyam for Tripurasundari.
A silk veshti is offered to Sri Chandramouleeswara along with a silk pavadai stitched with silk thread for Tripurasundari. Vegetables offered include spinach, snake gourd, red pumpkin, yam, white pumpkin, beans, okra, bittergourd, tomatoes, green bananas, and other green vegetables. Fruits offered include apples, bananas (malappazham), red bananas (chevvazhappazham). Tender coconut water (chevveLanIr)- which is yellow in colour, is considered auspicious for abhishekam to Lord Shiva.
Rice, wheat rava, rava, dals, and provisions are offered as well. Bilva leaves and flowers such as malli (jasmine), mullai (jasminejasminum auriculatum), jaadi (pink jasmine), champa (magnolia), chembarati (hibiscus), pavazha malli (coral jasmine), thumba poo (leucus aspera), javanti (chrysanthemum), are offered for use in the pooja. Flower garlands are made from strings culled from the bark of a banana tree and then offered to Sri Chandramouleeshwara. Nine-yard saris for Suvasinis and panchakaccham veshtis are also offered. Gold, shawls, garlands, and crowns made from different natural materials are also offered to the Acharyas on the day of the bhikshavandanam.
*The samashti bhikshavandam represents the dedication, commitment, bhakti, and the cooperative efforts of a large number of devotees. When performed thus over many generations, it creates a close association between the Matham and the devotees*
To participate in the 2002 Bikshavandanam, please click here – kksfusa.org/bv2022