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Pavitraropana Dvadasi - Trying to perform a Pancaratric vrata
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 17:37:12 +0530
This year I wanted to perform the Pavitraropana-vrata, that of offering the Lord a sacred cord. This is an old vrata, mentioned in many Pancaratras and dharma-sastras. It is also described at lenght in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa (15.168-240, translated in "Dearest to Vishnu", pp 118-134). The purpose of the vrata is to make up for any deficiences in the worship of the year that has passed. I have performed it a couple of times before, but not last year. This time, with a new digital camera and a good photographer (my wife), I also wanted to have it documented. Partly out of vanity, of course, but also thinking that it might interest someone else. For that reason, I am posting some pictures here, along with a brief commentary. Also, since the vrata wasn't successful in every regard, there might even be something to learn.
1. On Dasami: purifying the threads with pancagavya (HBV 15.185). Here I made my first blunder. I had purchased 400 meters of silk thread, but would have needed much more, at least the double.
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 17:41:34 +0530
2. Dasami: chanting 108 mula-mantras over the thread (HBV 15. 185)
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 17:43:18 +0530
Vratin chanting those mula-mantras, still looking fresh and enthusiastic!
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 17:44:14 +0530
3. Dasami: fashioning the threads. The text (HBV 15.184) calls for ninefold thread. The one I bought was threefold, so I had to spin it out and fold it. The main cords then had to be of a thickness of 108, 54 and 27 nine-fold string, so this part called for some mathemathics and carefulness.
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 17:48:22 +0530
Here the threads for the cords are all counted up and ready to be tied together. At this point, I realised that I had too little string, since there wasn't enough for making cords for my pradhana-shila or the fire. (From the beginning, I had decided to skip the "Vanamala", a cord of 1008 threads!) The lenght of those that I would make looked good, though.
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 17:53:45 +0530
4. Dasami: tying knots on the pavitras. For some reason, even though I had done this before, I had managed to forget the perfectly logical fact that tying knots on a thread makes it shorter! The text (HBV 15.187-189) calls for 36, 24 and 12 "nice and round" knots on the main cords, but I soon realised that there was no chance for that. I ended up making 10, 8, 6, and still the cords (as you will see) ended up much too short...
I think that this well illustrates the problem of doing something just "by the book". A book will only tell some things. Had there been a tradition to learn this from (and I'm sure there is, but not in Helsinki, Finland), this mistake wouldn't have been made.
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 17:56:25 +0530
The pavitras with knots and tied together. From left to right: Sri Sadbhuja's three pavitras, my own, my gurudeva's, and the "perfume-cord" (more about that later).
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 17:58:34 +0530
5. Dasami: dying the cords. The text calls for saffron, etc. I used saffron, but I was a little cheap and ended up with a little too blandly coloured cords.
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 18:03:13 +0530
I added some kumkum to make them more colourful, and they turned out nice. Still, the large (thick) pavitra looks oh so clumsy... It should definately have been much longer. - The cords were then covered with a cloth and left in the basket overnight. This finishes the Dasami-part. I have to go, but will continue with what happened on Ekadasi later. The Pavitraropana Dvadasi vrata, apart from all these things connected with the pavitras, follows the standard Ekadasi system of fasting and staying up. More about how I fared with that later...
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 22:22:23 +0530
6. Evening of Ekadasi - preparing a Sarvatobhadra Mandala, upon which the basket with the cords was to be placed. Another blunder, since I had forgot all about it and not gathered the things necessary. I ended up doing a very much less than traditional mandala, using colouring pencils on square paper... But it was nice to it anyway.
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 22:24:33 +0530
Preparing the Sarvatobhadra Mandala, cont. Taking care to align it in in the correct direction.
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 22:28:20 +0530
Invoking, establishing and worshipping the gods in the Mandala. I liked this part a lot, even though it is so "un-Gaudiya". I was recently asked whether I think that the Satkriyasaradipika was written by Gopala Bhatta Goswami. If so, he must have gone through quite a change of heart between the HBV and writing that book. In the SKSD worship of other gods than Krishna is expressly forbidden, in the HBV it is instead enjoined in many places, such as this.
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 22:31:32 +0530
Placing the basket with the cords on top of a pot of water on the Mandala, covering it with a cloth and protecting it with mantras, mudras and a kavaca. I tried to make a protective ring of fire around it using the agni-mudra and the agni-bija, but...
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 22:33:40 +0530
...at least our Kurma did not seem to get that burnt by the fire! So much for my brahma-tejas! ;-) (Picture from the morning of Dvadasi, so I'm getting a little ahead of myself)
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 22:39:38 +0530
7. Evening of Ekadasi: Adhivasana. The text (15.204) states that one should place various auspicious substances around the Lord on the altar. The only umbrella I was able to fit on the altar was, as you can see, the kind used for children's ice-cream desserts, but I supposed it was better than nothing. Gorocana I couldn't find, so I left it out, and I only had dried kusha grass. On previous times, I have had fresh, and it of course looks that much nicer.
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 22:45:21 +0530
8. Evening of Ekadasi: worship of the cords. The story behind the cords is mentioned briefly by the commentator to HBV. Vasuki had a brother by the name Pavitra, who worshipped Siva so well that he became pleased with him and offered him a boon. Pavitra wanted to always rest on the neck of Siva, and Siva not only granted him that boon, but told him that he would rest around the necks of all the gods -- provided their followers perform the vrata, one might add. Apparently the story is found in the Yoga-sara, but I have no knowledge of that book. If you are reading this Keshava, perhaps you could add something? I'm sure you must have seen this ceremony done in south India.
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 22:47:41 +0530
9. Evening of Ekadasi: tying a holy thread to the lotus hand of the Lord (HBV 15.216). At this point, a perfumed and fumigated cord should also be offered to the lotus feet of Krishna. No picture of that: I took it, and it didn't come out as well as those that my wife took.
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 22:57:23 +0530
10. Night between Ekadasi and Dvadasi: keeping vigil. I think it was Jagadananda who said that the most difficult part of the (strict) Ekadasi vrata is staying awake during the night and the next day, and I agree fully. The fasting is not such a big deal, in my experience. I have done the whole thing many times, but this time didn't make it. I kept going till 2 am, offering aratis every third hour, reading the Bhagavatam, etc, but then just became so exhausted that I felt I had to go to sleep. I guess I have become old and complacent...
I'm not sure what I could have done better, other than not giving up so easily. I know from experience that it can be done, and that the tiredness will come and go, but now I was somehow so exhausted that I allowed myself to give up. But in this picture I'm still going strong!
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 23:03:33 +0530
11. Morning of Dvadasi: offering the cords to the Lord.
I slept a few hours, and then went on with the vrata, thinking that while I couldn't make the whole thing, I would do as much as I can. Here I am offering the pavitras to the Lord, after having recited the appropriate mantras (HBV 15.228-231), begging the Lord to complete the worship of the year, carry my pavitras on his chest, and my worship in his heart.
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 23:07:27 +0530
Sri Sadbhuja wearing his pavitras. He is beautiful as always, but the pavitras should certainly have been much longer! My wife thought they looked like a nice scarf...
Bhrigu - Sat, 28 Aug 2004 23:17:53 +0530
12. Wearing one's own pavitra. Yet another picture of me, this time looking considerably more fatigued than before, even skinnier (I lost three kilos between Dasami and Trayodasi, in case anyone's interested in trying out a new diet). But I have my pavitra!
According to the rules (HBV 15.235), one is supposed to wear it one month, a fortnight, three days or one day and night. Since one has to eat only havisya while wearing it, I opted for the last alternative. I broke the fast with havisya a little after twelve and spent the rest of the day writing and trying to stay awake.
So, what did I learn? 1. Remember what went wrong last time (now I'll be able to see that here) and don't repeat it, 2. Plan more carefully, 3. Try to encourage someone to join (what are you doing next August, Madhava?) so that quitting will be more difficult. And perhaps someone would add 4. Don't write about it on the internet after, since then you'll lose whatever merit remains! ;-)