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Ashirvada In Hinduism - The Concept Of Blessing

Ashirvada literally means blessing in Hinduism. Ashirvada flows from the deep-rooted Indian virtue of venerating the elders. The custom of touching the feet of elders, by way of seeking their blessings, is common and the roots of this tradition can be traced to Vedas, Itihasas, Puranas and Dharmashastras.

Today Hindus take Ashirvada before beginning journey and important work from elders in the family and neighborhood. Blessings are also given during marriage and other auspicious ceremonies. Children take blessing of parents and elders in the family after they return home after staying long time away from home. It is also common for youngsters to take blessing of elders when they meet them after longtime.

In Taittiriya Upanishad students who are just about to embark on a new life at the conclusion of their formal academic studies are exhorted:

Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava, Acharya Devo Bhava (May mother be your God, May father be your God, May Guru be your God.)

There are rules to be followed when a young person salutes the elders and seeks their blessings.

One should prostrate full length on the ground and say : “abhivadaye…..” and repeathis gotra (family), pravara (lineage of ancient sages) etc and then utter his own name. The elders will also have to use different wordings to bless the person depending upon the person’s lineage. In olden days, those who bowed before their preceptors were required to use the correct accent also, which was the reciprocated by the preceptors.

How do we benefit from venerating our elders and getting their blessings?

Manu Smriti states that longevity, learning, fame and strength increase in the case of those who are never remiss in venerating their elders. Elders here include various people whose blessings have great potency. Omission to respect the venerable is similarly fraught with danger. Puranas and even Kavyas are replete with instances of people coming to grief for forgetting to or ignoring to revere the pious ones; king Dilipa, Indra (the king of demigods) and Shakuntala are among those who suffered this way.

Valmiki whole describing the qualities of Rama in the Ramayana, says again and again: “Rama delighted in conversing with good men grown old in wisdom, virtue and years.” Rama showed the old marked deference.

At the end of all religious rites, especially marriage, there is a special rite called ashirvada. Yajamana or the performer of the ceremony spreads out one end of his angavastram (upper loin cloth) before the assembled elders, and to the changing of ashirvada mantras by purohitas, the elders put akshata (unbroken rice, smeared with auspicious turmeric) into the agavastram. Akshatas are collected at the end, and sprinkled on the yajamans head by elders by a way of blessing.

Chiranjeevi bhava, chiram jiva, ayushman bhavah (may you live long) etc are some of the expression for blessing when youngsters bow before elders.

Married women are blessed to live long with their husbands (dirge sumangali bhava or saubhagyavati bhava).

Veneration of elders adds grace to social life and promotes spiritual well being.

In the Vaishanva tradition, the act of blessing is called mangalasasana. This is done to the divine being also since the devotee who considers himself as the parent, treats God as his own child. The classical example is Periyazhwar, a mystic saint, who considered the God as younger to himself in age and blessed him and his entourage with the hymn beginning with Pallandu Pallandu….(“May you thrive for several thousands and thousands and millions of years.” Etc).