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BHRAMOTSAVAM - FAIRS & FESTIVALS IN TAMILNADU, INDIA
Most South Indian temples celebrate Bhramotsavam, a ten day long festival involving the procession of festival images on gaily decorated mounts. Koti Sreekrishna and Srinivasa Bhattar of Cincinnati, Ohio present the significance of Bhramotsavam in SriVaishnava temples, and describe the daily events in the 9 day long Bhramotsavam at Tirumala (Tirupati).

The various events that take place in a Hindu Temple can be grouped under four major categories:

Nitya Kainkaryam - Daily Puja

Kaalotsavams (Special calendar events; Seasonal celebrations) (e.g., Brahmotsavam, Vasantotsavam, Festivals such as: Sankranti, Janmashtami, Raama Navami, Maha Sivaratri, .Maargazhi Tiruvaadirai, Skanda Sashti, Navaratri, Kartikai Deepam, Tai Poosam etc.) Sraddhotsavm or Kaamyotsavam (as desired by devotees) (e.g.., Kalyanotsavam and Vaahanotsavams)

Nimittotsavam
- a prescribed celebration for purification: For e.g., Pavitrotsavam (following Temple remodeling, repair, expansion, etc.) and Grahana Shuddi Puja (following a Solar or Lunar eclipse). The list of ceremonies conducted in a temple is based on the religious tradition as well as the Deity for which the Temple is dedicated to.

The Kaalotsavams in a typical Srivaishnava Temple are
: Brahmotsavam, Vasantotsavam (Spring festival), Summer festival, Makara & Karkataka Sankaranti (Winter & Summer solstice), Ugadi (new year's day), Navaratri, Deepavali, Ratha-saptami, Vaikunta Ekadashi and Mukkoti Dwadashi, Kaisika Ekadashi & Dwadashi, Gokulashtami, Rama Navami, Narasimha Jayanthi, Ananta-padmanabha vratam, Dhanurmaasa (Maargazhi) puja, Kartika deepotsavam, Varalakshmi vratam andThirunakshatrams (Birthdays) of Alwars and Acharyas. Special funds are set aside by the Temple administrators to conduct these celebrations in the prescribed manner on the specified days.

Bhramotsavam:
One of the major Kaalotsavams in Srivaishnava Temples is Brahmotsavam (tiruk-kODi-tirunAL). Brahmotsavam is conducted at different times in different Temples:
Period of the year in which the Brahmotsavam is conducted varies from temple to temple. Some examples of when it is performed are: 1. Pratishtapana (Kumbhabhishekam) day of the Temple, 2. Pratishtapana day of Sri Shataari, 3. Thirunakshatram- Birthstar/Birthday of the Temple Deity, 4. Conducted as Shraddotsavam or Kaamyotsavam as desired (sponsored) by devotees.

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.

Origins: 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 army).
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
vahanam)
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) vahanam.
Day 8 : Morning: Rathotsavam -Ratha (chariot) Yatra (procession) for the Deities.

Night:
Procession on Ashva (horse) vahanam.
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.

 
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