Importance of Anivara Asthanam
Anivara Asthanam is one among the most important festivals of Tirumala Temple and the other important festivals are Ugadi Asthanam, Salakatla Brahmotsavams, Deepavali Asthanam and Vaikunta Ekadasi. In Tirumala temple, an ‘Asthanam’ refers to a grand assembly held infront of the almighty and other temple functionaries with all the staff related to the shrine (‘sa parivAram’). In Vaikhanasa Samhithas the celebration of Asthanams are given a special importance. Among the multiple festivals which are being performed in the hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala, Anivara Asthanam is an interesting ritual, which will be performed with religous fervour on July 17th, 2014. Usually every year it is held either on July 16th or 17th, as the dakshinayanam punyakalm begins on this date.
Among the festivals conducted at tirumala, Anivara Asthanam takes the pride of place. Indeed nothing shines so well as the Anivara Asthanam. As this Asthanam is held on the last day of the Tamil month Ani, it is popularly called as Anivara Asthanam. A wonderful durbar will be held in front of Bangaru vakili with processional deity of Sri Venkateswara, with his two consorts – Sridevi and Bhudevi, along with Sri Senadhipativaru. In olden days this festival used to mark the commencement of writing of the new accounts. An inscription (No.617 T.T) found on the stone wall of the second prakara of Tirumala temple under date 9-3-1494 pertains to an endowment made by two accountants of the temple for offering of certain Atirasapadis on the occasion. And when the temple was administered by Mahants from 1843 to 1933, they have selected this Anivara asthanam, as the beginning of the official Acounting year for the temple.During this Anivara Asthanam, a traditional function which marks the closure of the year’s account and the commencement of accounts for the coming year is conducted and taking over of charge officially. Since Lord Venkateswara is the head of the institution, the official seal of the Devasthanams and the key bunch called in temple terminology as ‘lachhena beegAla gutti’ is placed at the lotus feet of Lord and handed over to the EO of the TTD.
In the history of Tirumala, this celebration is called Adi Ayanam Asthanam, the writing up of the New Year accounts. This Adi Ayanam Asthanam later has transformed in to Anivara Asthanam. Perhaps it may be due to the fact that the function is held on the last day of the Tamil month of Ani. In one of the inscriptions on the walls of the temple, there is a stipulation as to how the charitable endowment should be utilized for the said purpose.
The Anivara Asthanam is held on the day of ‘Dakshinayana Punyakalam’. According the custom of the shrine, Lord Malayappa Swami with consorts are placed near the Bangaru Vakili and in the evening they are taken around for a procession on ‘Pushpa Pallaki’, A Palanquin of Flowers specially made for this event.
What is Dakshinayanam?
The smallest Unit of time is 1 nimisha. Fifteen nimeshas make one kashtha. thirty kashthas are one kala and thirty kalas constitute one muhurta. There are thirty muhurtas in a span of day and night (ahOrAtra). Thirty such ahoratras make up a month. There are two pakshas (fortnights) in every month. Six months constitute an ayana and two ayanas, a year. There are thus twelve months in every year. The names of the two ayanas are, Uttarayana and Dakshinayana.
While humans pass through uttarayana, the gods pass through only one day. Similarly. when humans pass through dakshinayana, the gods pass through merely one night. One year for humans is equivalent to a time span of one day and one night for the gods.
In Sanskrit, the term Dakshinayanam literally means southern journey. In this case, it refers to the Indian Summer solistice, for in hindu puranic yore the Sun is believed to move towards the South at this time. It seems to accentuate the idea that we are entering the darker part of the year – less sun, more rain, longer nights…
Dakshinayana Punyakalam is the day when sun enters the Karkata Rasi (Cancer Zodiac) as per Hindu Astrology. It is also known as Dakshinayanam or Kartaka Sankraman or Karkataka Sankranti. It marks the beginning of the night of Devas. In Hinduism, a human year is equal to one day of gods and the next 6 months up to Uttarayana is night time of Gods. It must be noted that as per Tirumala temple Panchangam, Dakshinayana begins on July 16th, 2012.
In simple terms, Dakshinayana Punyakalam marks the southern transit of the Sun. The Uttarayana period which began on January 14 or 15 ends with Dakshinayana Punyakalam. The Dakshinayanam period will end on Makar Sankranti or Uttarayana day.
Legend has it that Lord Vishnu goes into sleep during the period - the Deva Sayani Ekadasi marks this day. The Chatur Masa by Seers are also observed during this period.
The day begin with usual daily rituals like Suprabhatham, Thomala Seva, Sahasranamarchana (No Koluvu), I Bell, Bali and Sathumorai will be held. Lord Malayappa Swamy with his consorts are adorned with New Silk Vastrams, precious diamond studded ornaments and flower garlands at Bangaru Vakili and they are placed inside SarvaBhupala Vahanam opposite Garuda at the centre of Dwarapalakas. The Supreme of Vishnu's Retinue, Lord Viswaksena also seated on a seperate simhasanam to the left of Malayappa Swamy facing South.
Now the II Archana will be performed to Mulavirat in the Sanctum and Malayappa Swamy at Bangaru Vakili. After the Archana, Special Food Offerings like Big Laddu, Vada, Appam, Dosa and other Rice varieties like Pongal, Chakra Pongal, Seera etc., are taken for a procession around Vimana Prakaram around the Dwajasthambam. Now the II Bell with Special Food Offerings are offered to the Lord Venkateswara. After the Bell, 6 New Vastrams on a Silver Plate is brought by Pedda Jeeyar on his head, with Temple Officials, Chatra, Chamara, Mangala Vadyams and usual temple honors, after going for a procession around Vimana Prakaram including Dwajasthambam, and they will be presented inside the Sanctum to Vaikhanasa Archakas. Among these, 4 vastrams are adorned to Mulavirat ... one vastram called Parivatta Vastram on the head of Mulavirat, one vastram to the divine sword Surya KAtari called 'Katari Vastram', two vastrams on both the sides hanging as ‘Thomala’ Vastrams.
Then the Akshatharopanam ritual followed by divine Harathi is performed to Mulavirat. In this Akshatharopanam Red Colored Akshathas (Rice) are used. The same is also performed in daily Kalyanotsavam but with Yellow colored rice. The remaining two vastrams are adorned one to Malayappa Swamy and the other to Viswaksena. Now Akshatharopanam is performed to Malayappa Swamy and Viswaksena at Bangaru Vakili. Then the Archaka who performed Akshatharopanam is honoured with Satari and Parivattam. Now the Archakas will receive Rice from Lord Venkateswara as Dakshina and will Bless the Lord as ‘Nityaiswaryobhavah’. The Pedda Jeeyar, TTD EO will have Parivattam and Satari honors after Harathi. A special harathi called ‘Rupayi Harathi’ is performed where in the EO will collect money in a Silver Plate from the assembled devotees (usually the temple staff) assembled there and EO will drop the money collected, in a Box Hundi provided. Now the Prasadam called ‘Asthanam Laddu (Special Big Laddu)’ is distributed first to Archaka, then Pedda Jeeyar followed by other Temple Officials.
The Malayappa Swamy with consorts are kept at Bangaru Vakili in the Sarva Bhupala Vahanam till the evening to the left side of Bangaru Vakili. The Pilgrims who get the chance to have darsan on this day can also have the darsan of Malayappa Swamy in Sarva Bhupalam. In the Evening Lord Malayappa Swamy will be taken around for a procession around four mada streets in a specially decorated Flower Palanquin. Thousands of kilograms of aromatic flowers will be used in the making of the exquisitely decorated flower palanquin. Noted florists from different States, will participate in the making of the palanquin. The colourful festival will be conducted for more than one-and-half hours.
Till the evening Thomala Seva, these new Vastrams are not removed for Mulavirat and Malayappa Swamy in Sarva Bhupala Vahanam. Before the Evening Thomala Seva, the flower garlands of morning Thomala Seva will be removed, these Vastrams are also removed at the same time.This festival also signifies the oath taking ceremony, at which the servants of the Lord are to affirm their loyalty and faithfulness to their duty in sacred service of Lord. In short, the Asthanam summarizes for us the philosophical and ethical teachings of the Upanishads, the crux of the Vedanta.