Achamanam – 2



Article by Sri Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore

We have seen the various occasions warranting Achamanam. One of these is eating or drinking. However, there are occasions too when Achamanam is forbidden; for instance it is not to be done after the intake of holy water like PerumAl Tirttham (Vishnu pAdOdakam), Sri PAda tIrttham of bhAgavatAs, madhuparkam, sOmapAnam (after conclusion of the SomayAga),etc.

The Achamanam in practice during Sandhyavandanam etc., is described in the Smritis. There is one more prescribed by the Shruti and which is done at the time of Brahma Yagyam ( done after PrAtah:sandhyAvandanam, in which one prasna from the Veda is recited daily in sequential order, along with the Purusha Sukta). This Achamanam is described in the TaittirIya AraNyaka ( 2nd Prasna, 15th panchati) thus-

“tri:AchAmEt,dvi:parimrijya,sakrit u0pasprisya,shira:
chakshushee nAsikE shrOtrE hridayam Alabhya”

As in the ordinary Achamanam, here too, water is sipped thrice, the lips wiped twice. Then one should touch the head, eyes, two nostrils, two ears and the heart. This constitutes the Shrouta Achamanam. The important difference in this type of Achamanam is that it is done without any mantra being uttered- the intake of water is without the accompaniment of ?Achuta Ananta Govinda? nAmAs. Further, the body parts to be touched are only eight, against twelve in the SmArta Achamanam. Additionally, even while touching these parts, no mantra is to be recited (i.e., without the KesavAdi nAmAs).

Perhaps due its peculiarities, and the absence of accompanying Bhagavan nAmAs, this Achamanam is prescribed only during Brahma Yagya and nowhere else.

There is one more type of Achamanam in vogue. If often happens that though we need to purify ourselves through Achamanam, no water is available at the time and place. In such situations, the Smriti prescribes an easy method of purification- that of touching the tip of one?s nose and then the right ear, uttering the Pranava mantra. This is based on the Scriptural texts, which say that Agni resides in the Brahmana?s nose tip and holy rivers like the Ganga in his right ear. Hence touching these two purifies a person immediately. This is why perhaps the YagyOpaveetam is rolled onto one?s right ear while carrying on excretory functions. We would have observed elders performing this ShrOtra Achamanam after letting out a yawn or sneezing. It is to be noted that this short cut is to be adopted only when the regular Achamanam is impossible due to circumstances.

Other types of mini-AchamanAs are prescribed by Sri BodhAyana, who says that when the vastram is worn again after its removal, one should perform Achamanam, and if that is not possible, touch wet grass, wet earth or wet gOmayam.

The importance attached to Achamanam is evident from the Smriti Chandrika vachanam,

“ya: kriyA kurutE mOhAt anAchamya Eva nAstika:
bhavanti hi vritA tasya kriyA:sarvA na samsaya:”

All karmAs done without Achamanam are doomed to failure and would be futile, warns the Smriti. There are many Smritis, which prescribe different types of Achamanam, some mutually conflicting. Whenever one has a doubt, one should approach elders and BhAgavatAs and have the matter clarified, as there is nothing that is more authoritative. Adiyen seeks the pardon of BhagavatAs for any errors of commission or omission that might have crept in the above piece.

Article by Sri Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore

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