Friday, June 11, 2010

Significance of Arghyam in Sandhyavandanam

This is my next post in the series 'SandhyAvandanam'. I believe most of my posts on this series have been well received. Over the past year, I gave a few lectures in the functions convened by 'Tamilnadu Brahmin Association' (Thambhraas) on these topics and was happy to see a sea change in the approach of Brahmins towards Sandhyavandanam. The message that Sandhya routine is a rejuvenator, spiritual builder, a personality enhancer and a health invigorator seems to have gone well with my brAhmaNa brothers.

In my first coverage I did not write about Arghyam, a very important kriya in Sandhya Vandanam. Arghyam literally means 'offering'. Like Achamanam, mArjanam, and prAsanam, this is also a water based one. Water is taken in the right palm of the sAdhaka and (slightly) thrown skyward after chanting the gAyatri mantra.This offering is thrice per session. Smartha sandhyAvandanam has one extra arghyam for any errors in the offering time- the kAlAtheetha prAyaschitta arghya pradhAnam.

I have known through many readings that the sandhyAvandanam , though done by the brAhmaNa, is in fact for the welfare of the humanity at large. This kriya, Arghyam, is no different. The sAdhaka's chanting of the gAyatri while holding the water in the palm is a selfless kriya and aimed at the world. The agent to which it is given is Surya (sun).

I will try to give the traditional, philosophical as well as scientific background for Arghyam.

Traditional Understanding

Garuda purANa states that a kind of asuras called mandeha , who originally reside in an island called aruNa are trying to destroy Surya in the day at daybreak and sunset. The arghyam given at these times serves as a weapon to destroy them.Look at the following slokas (1-213-62)

"A Brahmachirin shall bathe only once a day. Having performed the rite of Achamanam,
and invoked the sacred pools therein, one shall take a bath in the river. Thirty
million is the number of the malignant spirits, called Mandehas, who manifest
a desire of devouring the sun at day break. He, who does not attend to his
Sandhya rite at the meetings of the day and night, verily kills the sun, inasmuch
as the libations of consecrated water (offered unto the sun-god in the course of
a SandhyA) tend to consume these monsters (Mandehas) like streams of liquid fire."

Philosophical Significance

The philosophical significance is in the symbolism. The Mandehas are nothing but the man- dehas or mind -
body which are clouding the sun of resplendent atman in us. The gayatri purifies us by this offering so that
the inner light can be perceived by us. Also, the sAdhaks , after the arghyam, say, 'asAvAdityo brahma,
brahmaiva ahamasmi" (the sun is verily the brahman. Brahman is myself). In the adhyAtmic sense, arghyam
is a reminder of the brahman in us and its honouring by the offer of mantra and water.

Scientific Significance

The scientific meaning is even more interesting. Only recently I chanced upon the work of Mr Masaru Emoto
of Japan who did some critical experiments with water.He took a glass of water and spoke 'thank you' to it.
He then freezed the water.

You make me sick
Tibetan Sutra

 Thank you                                                                           Before Prayer
When he magnified the crystallized water, he was amazed to see symmetric patterns.Curious, he then cursed
a glass of water with , " I hate you" and crystallized it.This time the magnified image of crystals were ugly 
and random. He then used Tibetan Sutras and the resulting image was of a beautiful pattern.
See this video on his experiments
It was here that I wondered at the wisdom of our Maharishis. All of our Sandhyavandanam is water based.
We either partake or offer water while uttering sacred mantrams. Imagine the effect of these mantrams on the 
water ! During Arghyam, we chant the greatest of all mantrams- the Gayatri. Though Mr Emoto did not 
experiment with Gayatri mantra, we can guess what will happen. The thought waves generated by the 
Arghya Danam will  penetrate all the three worlds. 
The same explanation will hold for our Achamanam , prokshanam, kalasa pooja, temple teertham etc. 
I also would like to add a speculation here. Like water, all the pancha Bhootas must have memory. In our yagyas, 
Agni is called 'havya vahana' since it carries the havis to the devas.Soon, our scientists will declare that air, 
earth and space has memory ! 
I have heard that Rishis chant Gayatri ceaselessly. They do so for protecting the mankind and for preserving 
the Surya (sun) from extinguishing ! In Dhanur Vidya (Archery and missile warfare), only  the variants of 
Gayatri mantra were used for launching the sastras - right upto the most potent Brahmastra !
This is another great aspect of our Sandhya Vandanam. Arghyam is not a meaningless exercise  but a
profoundly meaningful, spiritual Kriya that is also physically purifying. Arghyam later was adapted into daily 
upasana in Temples and homes. It is one of the 'sodasa' upachara (sixteen honours) to Paramatman.


Aiyer said...

I am immensely touched by your campaign in favour of Sandhyavandanam. Just a while ago someone was blaming the government for the poor plight of "educated" brahmins. "Educated" here means those who have quantified education with a paper certificate of a SSLC BA BSC MA MSc etc. I told him why blame the government for their plight? Please ask them -- those who are so-called educated and are suffering for earning their livelihood -- whether they are doing their Sandhyavandanam -- at least in the mornings and evenings -- before sunrise and before sunset. I am absolutely certain that Veda Mata Gayatri would definitely provide succour to those who worship her during the Sandhya kaalam. Those who have arrogated to themselves the privilege of giving up Sandhyavandanam, only they are the ones who are to be blamed for their sorry plight.

I am not learned enough to talk here about those Brahmins who are doing well (in the lovekeeka sense) without doing or without adhering to any of our beliefs, I can say with abundant promise that those perform Sandhyavandanam will never face any difficulties in their lives, or even if they do, they will overcome the same just as easily as darkness vanishes at the emergence of light!

r80sr said...

Dear Sir,

An excellent post explaining the significance of the arghyam. I was particularly enchanted by the post as it dealt with a topic that was also published by Kumudam Jothidam (authored by Shri. AMR ji) -- Masaro Emato's research with water crystal shapes and forms.

I wish I could quote here the exact edition (date) but all I can remember is that it should be within the two months - April and May. Please take a look if you can get one of those past 8 issues where Shri. AMRji corroborates your view.

Incidentally, in today's work-a-day busy world many Brahmin officegoers offer only Arghyam - as a shortened Sandhyavandanam alongwith few Gayatri mantras and yours truly is no exception, unfortunately. I wonder if there is any approval by any authority of this as valid enough. However, I can take heart from this post at the significance of Arghyam and that atleast this is not missed.

Venkatasubramanian said...

Namaste Sri r80sr

Yes, I know Sri AMR has written on this a few weeks ago. This Masaru Emoto thing has been going on for at least two years. I posted in 4 brahmins and also iyer123 groups under the title " hidden messages in water".

In fact this was brought yo my attention by a blogger "" In a post titled "hidden messages in water" the blogger had drawn our attention to Masaru's experiment.

I then sensed the connection between this and our own Sandhyavandanam which is a water based kriya. This was all before one and a half years.

Then suddenly "the New Indian express" carried a news item in the second page ( this was about a year ago). Sri AMR has lastly picked it up and disseminated it far and wide.

Regarding your second question: The quick Sandhya Vandanam with Arghyam and a few gayatris. I think something is better than nothing. At least on leisure days, we can do our quota of 108 or even 1008 !



Swayambu said...

This is awesome. This scientific proof reinforces the importance of doing daily trikala sandhi. Thanks very much for your article.

Swayambu said...

Your article reinforces the impoortnace of doing daily trikala sandhi. Great and thank you very much.

snowboarder said...

Respected writer:
Thank you for such a eye opening article.
I have realized the importance and started performing sandhyavandanam and feel loss of words to express the changes .
Thank you again for all you do to promote our sanatana Dharma.


தக்குடு said...

Very gud thought process. Best wishes for your noble service.

Keshav said...

I can understand the explanation. Also I wish to point out that sound is such a great traveler and can stimulate lots of different changes in every animal that hears the sound. However I cannot understand the fact that how some people all over the world are doing very well without even chanting Gayathri or Sandhyavandhanam. Why some people who keep doing their Sandhyavandanam and gayathri are still suffering without any resolution. Can some one explain on this? Regards Ram

Hari said...

Dear Keshav,
I remember reading the answer to your query in one of the late Kanchi Mahapeiyaval's speeches. He said that those Brahmanas who are well off in the present Janma despite not performing Sandhya Worship, are merely utilizing the good karma of their predecessors who were very regular in Nitya karma." Now I add my note below - But without replenishment, the quota of good karma has to get exausted one day. I guess it'll be interesting to see the fate of the future generation of these brahmins. One thing is very clear. The amazing fact that our Vedic civilization has survived so many thousands of years, despite the worst persecutions - both natural and man-made - what could be the reason behind it, but for the regular practice of Nitya Karma by our forefathers, and especially chanting of the exalted Gayatri mantram the maximum number of times?


srivatsan said...

Thank you for your enlightening articles on sandhyavandanam especially the scientific basis of the various processes involved in it explained in a lucid and convincing manner. It kindles our desire to know more and more of the significance of sandhyavandanam and its beneficial impact on our lives.

Inquiring Mind said...

Excellent venkat.. also pls see this video on water..

Bhagwan S R Iyengar said...

You have mentioned throwing the water skywards?? Is it really throwing? I dont think so. Correct the same. Secondly, Arghyam is pictorially depicted as given while standing. We have been taught while in the sitting posture. Can u kindly clarify?

rangarajan sudarsanam Iyengar said...

I will start my duty of sandhyavandanam from today.
Adiyen Ramanuja daasan,

G.Subramanian Kaushik said...


As per my understanding , we leave arghyam three time, but I think it would be of no use within our home.

In earlier days, sandhyavandhanam was done on the banks of the river.

Everyone would do arghyam in the river, so the water may get purified and it is for the greater good.

But now what we are doing is that we have a plate , do the arghyam and throwing away the water within the sink.

Proably we need to think of a way to change this.

Girish Chandra Ananthanarayana said...

Very nice initiative, very nice write up. Thank You.

However, there is a minor difference of opinion I would like to express here. The philosophy and scientific basis provided are more for the aachamanam and mudra shuddhi karaNa vidhis where through sankalpa we purify the water - so the crystal theory makes sense here. Arghyam is an offering or an invitation or a reception, whereas aachamanam is the purification process.

Specifically talking about the Arghya, here is my understanding, perspective and opinion.

"Arghya" is "argha-yat-argharmarhati". "Argha" means "the worth or value of something", or a "respectable reception of, or offering or oblation to, a deserving, venerable, respectful guest or person or god". This is ideally done using water. Just like we offer water for the guests to wash their feet upon arrival, arghyam is an offering to the deities who create auspiciousness within.

It makes sense to understand when and where we perform "arghyam" during Sandhyavandana. "arghyaM" is done as the Third level of purification. 1st level of purification is at the bodily level (apavitra .... aapahishta..), and the second is at the level of praaNa, and third the preparation of the heart and mind to invite the mother Gayatri for recitation. We will have done two praaNayaamaas before offering arghya.

Arghyam is done before we recite "Om iti ekaksharam brahma .... aayaatu vardha devi ... Om Ojosi ... Gayatrim aavaahayaami, saavitrim aavaahayaami .... ". So, "arghyam" is the process of preparing the stage to invite all auspiciousness before we chant Gayatri.

This is my understanding

shawji said...

I want details about sayam(evening) sandhya and the basic deference between the Pratah sandhya and sayam sandhya , in procedural aspects and Mantras

I have started doing my Pratah sandhya, and I want to start sayam sandhya also.
Please help me


Ravi Kumar said...

i am not born brahmin , but i live the life of a brahmin, my releasation was after marriage i am aged 55yrs , i am a pure vegetarian from 40 yrs our family of wife and son are pure vegetarians ,i recite gayatri and do pooja daily , i thought without brahmopadesha reciting gayatri correct or not? i also came to know after marriage upanayana is not possible , can you suggest for my practices to continue .