Avani Avittam, as I remember, was a day when the men of the family went to the temples, in the morning for performing the Upakarma, in the temples. Upakarma (/upaakarma/) means beginning or “Arambham“, i.e. to begin the study of the Veda (Veda Adhyayanam). For example, Yajur Upakarma means to begin the study of the Yajur Veda. Those belonging to the Yajur Veda observe the Upakarma in the month of Sravana (August-September), on the day of the full moon (paurnami). Why begin study of the Vedas on this particular day? This auspicious day also happens to be the day when Lord Narayana assumed the avatar of Lord Hayagriva. Lord Hayagriva as we all know restored the Vedas to Brahma and also is the God of Knowledge. (Courtesy – Ramanujam.org)
The next question is: why do this every year? In the not too distant a past, Veda Adhyayanam was performed only during the period Avani to Tai (from mid-August to mid-January). Therefore, one is supposed to perform an “utsarjanam” in the month of Tai, i.e., a giving up of the learning of Vedas from Tai to Avani. Just like a Upakarma function there was a Utsarjana function in Tai. The period between January to August was then devoted to learning other branches of our shastras. Thus the cycle of Upakarma and Utsarjana with regard to Vedic studies was established. However, this method took 12 or more years to learn just one veda. Slowly this became impractical and Vedic studies continued throughout the year.
The main purpose of the Upakarma function is to offer prayers and express our gratitude to those rishis who gave us the Vedas — the rishis through whom the Vedic mantras were revealed. These rishis are known as “kaanda rishis”.In the Upakarma Homam as well as in the tarpanam, the offerings are made to the kaanda rishis. In fact this tarpanam is so important that it is included as part of our daily worship.
On the Avani Avittam day(the full moon day bearing the nakshatra “Avittam” in the tamil month of Avani) Brahmins after a holy dip ,change the sacred thread and wear a new holy thread. This ritual is known as Upakarma, which means beginning. The sacred thread is referred as ‘Poonool,’ ‘Yajnopavita’ or ‘Janeyu.’
Today`s lunch menu was a little spread, consisting of: