The Athirudra Maha Yagna is the highest form of worship of Lord Shiva. It is done for world peace and prosperity. This Yagna consists of 1008 Rudrams and is chanted over eight days. Due to its length and difficulty it is not usually performed.
It was presented at Sri Ramanasramam by Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Veda Vidyalaya Trust (Sri CCVV Trust). Sri Chandrasekhara Bharathi and Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi were contemporaries of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, and heads of Sankara order mutts at Sringeri and Kanchi. They both would send young monks under their charge to Sri Ramana for his darshan and spiritual instruction.
Sri CCVV Trust was looking for a holy location at which to perform this most special Yagna, and asked if Sri Ramanasramam would host it. They were given an enthusiastic ‘yes’ from the Ashramam, and it was performed from 15 March through 22 March, 2009. This Yagna was performed by 175 Brahman priests, of which 23 were from Ramanasramam and the rest from Sankara orders in South India. Housing and meals were provided free of cost by Ramanasramam.
The Rudram starts with Nyasam, meaning the one who chants, who would visualize himself with each of his parts of the body as given to a deity. The chanter then surrenders body, mind and spirit (atma) to the deity and become one with him. Thus the effect of Rudra Parayanam will be distributed to the whole world.
Very important to note here is that Rudram is the only Mantra which starts with a prostration to Lord Parameswara (Om Namo Bhagavathae Rudraaya). In the vedas none of the mantras start with prostration. This makes Rudram the supreme mantra, the greatest of the mantras.
In the 1st paragraph the Lord is praised. In the second paragraph to ninth, namaskar is done to the Lord in all directions, and these paragraphs explain the Sarvaantharyaamithwam ( i.e. not only the things which have life but also non-living things also are described as Parameswara, and namaskar is being offered). Next boons are asked like, ‘Oh lord please take care of us.’ For example there is a verse:
Maano Mahanthamuthamaano arbhagam Maana ukshantha muthamaana Ukshitham. Maanovathi: Pitharam Motha Matharam Priyaa maanasthanuvo Rudra Reerishaha.
“O Lord. Please save all of us from all calamities including our parents, elders and even unborn children.”
Finally is chanted:
Om tryambakam yajamahe sugandhim pusti vardhanam
Urvarukamiva bandhanan mrtyor mukshiya mamritat
Which is the Mruthyunjaya Mantra:
Om. We worship and adore you, O three-eyed one, O Shiva. You are sweet gladness, the fragrance of life, who nourishes us, restores our health, and causes us to thrive. As, in due time, the stem of the cucumber weakens, and the gourd is freed from the vine, so free us from attachment and death, and do not withhold immortality.
The photos below were taken on the final day. It is hoped that they can provide a bit of the sense of this special Rudram Mantra.
A temporary hall was constructed for the event, next to the dining hall.
Entry into the temporary hall.
There is a roped-off area filling most of the hall. The chanting is going on within this area.
Sitting in the hall are many devotees, listening, reflecting and meditating. Some are chanting along with the priests.
The rhythmic sound of the chant is hypnotic. One can just ‘fall’ into it and be absorbed.
In the center of the area is a fire, surrounded by maybe 30 priests. Others sit in rows behind. Some of the priests are young boys, from Brahmin priest school (a gurukal). These boys reside at the school, and learn the vedic chants by rote, so that they will always be able to chant them.
On the other side of the hall, is a large puja area …
The photo below was taken from in front of the lingam, here facing away from us.
In the center, the men sit around the fire and chant. Periodically they pour ladles of ghee into the fire.
You can see the fire burn brighter when this happens.
After a while, a cow was brought into the hall.
The cow is decorated. See the yellow flower mala around her horns.
Sri Mani and Sri Sundaram, Sri Ramana’s grand nephews, who run Ramanasramam, are dressed in dhotis and are dropping flower petals onto the cow.
After the cow it taken from the halls (and they are swept), an elderly man and woman are brought into the hall. People come and prostrate themselves and receive blessings from the couple. They are lead again by Sri Mani And Sri Sundaram.
The priests continue to chant and add oil to the fire.
In the back of the hall stands Siva, in the form of a highly decorated lingam.
Know that for eight days in March, 2009, these many Brahmin priests came together and chanted 1008 Rudrams for the purpose of world peace and prosperity. They came and chanted for you and for me.
We should give thanks for the blessings that we are given.