Thus, there can be more than one Brahmotsavam
in a given year. In the Thirumala
Temple, it is conducted once in the Tamil month
ofPurattasi (Sep. 18- Oct.18). It starts on first
day of Navaratri (Oct. 10, for 1999) and concludes
on Vijayadashami (Oct.19, for 1999), which also
happens to be the Thirunakshatram (Shravanam star)
of Sri Venkateshwara, the Deity of the Temple.
This is the most prominent Brahmotsavam (also
called Manava Brahmotsavam). Brahmotsavams in
Tirumala are also conducted at three other times
of the year, namely: Kaisika Ekadashi (also known
as, Raakshasa Brahmotsavam), Mukkoti Dwadashi
(also known as, Daiva Brahmotsavam) and Rathasaptami
(also known as, Aarsha Brahmotsavam). Besides,
these 4 Brahmotsavams in a year, it is also conducted
as a shraddotsavam as desired by devotees. It
is stated that in the year 1551 AD, as many as
11 Brahmotsavamas took place. At the Srirangam
Temple, Brahmotsavam for this year started on
March 23 and concluded on March 31 for 1999. March
31 of 1999 is also the thirunakshatram of Sri
Ranganayaki Thaayar, the consort of Sri Ranganathar.
For the year 2000, Brahmotsavam at the Srirangam
will start on March 12.
Brahmotsavam means "Grand
celebration" or a "celebration performed
by Brahma". We will shortly see how both
the meanings are appropriate for this event. Lord
Indra once killed a Brahma-raakshasa (a Brahmin
with demonic characters). In doing so, he incurred
a great sin of killing a Brahmana- "Brahma
hatya dosham(BHD)". To relieve Indra of this
burden, Lord Brahma conducted a ceremony. In this
ceremony, officiated by Brahma himself, Indra
held Sriman Narayana ( Lord Vishnu) on his head
during the special ritual bath "Avabritha
Snaanam". This verily was the first Brahmotsavam.
Because of the immense cleansing power of Brahmotsavam,
this utsavam is periodically performed in Temples
to wash away all wrong doings that may have been
incurred. It is said that the Lord Brahma himself
rendered the first Brahmotsavam seva (service)
to Lord Venkateshwara (Vishnu) of the Thirumalai
shrine. Indeed, it is a common belief that every
Brahmotsavam is witnessed by Lord Brahma. In recognition
of this, a well decorated empty chariot is pulled
in front of the chariot carrying the deities at
the processions held during the Brahmotsavam Brahma
is believed to be seated in that chariot overseeing
the celebration. Thus, Brahmotsavam is also referred
to as "Brahmapratyakshotsavam" (celebration
conducted right in front of Brahma). References
to Brahmotsavam can be found in Varaaha Puraanam
and Bhavishyotthara Puraanam.
Brahmotsavam celebration lasts for 9 days. Brahmotsavam
is not just a Temple ritual, but is a grand festival
for the whole town. It begins with Ankurarpanam
and concludes with Avabhritha Snanam (Ritual bath
or Theertha vaari). On each day, the Utsava Murthis
(Mobile Deities) will be decorated and taken in
procession, once in the morning and once in the
evening on different Vahanams (vehicles). In the
night, there will also be Unjal seva (Deities
seated on the swing). The intricate step by step
details vary from Temple to Temple. Here is a
brief summary of main events in the Brahmotsavam
celebration at the Balaji temple in Thirumalai.
Day 1 : Ankurarpanam (planting 9
grains in soil placed in earthen dishes). Kankanadharanam
(wrist band) to Utsava Muthi and priests.Procession
of Vishvaksenar (Commander-in-chief of Vishnu's
Mritsangrahanam - Collecting the soil for Brahmotsava
Yagna(Hawan, Fire ceremony) Peetam. Vishvaksenar
returns from procession and enters the Yaga
Shaala (Place where Yagnam is conducted), where
he is received with Poorna Kumbham honor(special
Pot filled with water). He is believed to be
the Pradhana Yajaman (Chief conductor) of this
Yagnam. This is followed by Procession of Deity
on Pedda Sesha (Big serpent) Vahanam.
Day 2 : Morning Utsavam (procession) of Deity
on Smaller Shesha (smaller serpent) Vahanam.
Dwajaarohanam in the evening. Garuda Dwajam
- a flag bearing the emblem of Garuda (The Eagle-
Vehicle of Vishnu) is hoisted with Veda Mantrams
from Taittiriya samhita dedicated to Garuda.
This signals start of Brahmotsavam to the whole
town. Once the flag is hoisted, it is expected
that no householder leaves town or plans any
auspicious ceremony in the house until the conclusion
of Brahmotsavam. Thus the whole town is able
to fully take part in the celebration and not
be preoccupied with other personal activities.
Even if someone has to leave town on emergency,
they are expected to return prior to un-hoisting
the flag (Dwaja-awarohanam) on day 9.
Day 3 : Morning procession on Lion (Simha Vahanam)
Day 4 : Morning procession on the "every
desire fulfilling giving tree" (Kalpavriksha
Day 5 : Deity is dressed as Mohini (temptress,
a form of Vishnu) and taken procession in ivory
pallaki (carrier). Night procession is taken
on Eagle (Garuda vahanotsavam - Garuda Sevai).
Day 6 : Morning: Procession on Hanuman (Monkey,
devotee of Rama/Vishnu) vahanam. Night procession
on Gaja (Elephant) vahanam.
Day 7 : Morning procession on Surya Prabha (Sun)
vahanam. Evening procession on Chandra Prabha(Moon)
Day 8 : Morning: Rathotsavam -Ratha (chariot)
Yatra (procession) for the Deities.
Night: Procession on Ashva (horse)
Day 9 : Morning: Deities carried in pallaki
(carrier) to the Pushkarani (sacred pond) in
front of the Varaha Swami (the Boar incarnation
of Vishnu) Temple for the special bath -Abhishekam
and Avabritha Snanam (Theerthavaari thirumanjanam).
All devotees also take bath in the pushkarani.
The Deities are taken back to the Kalyana Mantapam
of the Temple. The flag is un-hoisted, marking
the conclusion of Brahmotsavam. Even watching
the video of this majestic celebration in itself
deeply touches our heart, mind, eyes and ears.