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Punyahavacana – Hindu Religious Ceremony Involving Priests

Punyahavacana is a Hindu religious ceremony, which involves a priest (pujari or pandit). Punyaha refers to a day when any Vedic religious rite needs to be performed. Taittiriya Brahmana (I.5.2.14) divides the 27 nakshatras (birth stars) into two groups, yama nakshatras (demoniac) and devata nakshatras (divine). The days governed by the demoniac asterisms are papaha days (inauspicious) and those governed by the divine asterisms are punyaha days (auspicious).

In actual practice, however, any day that is blessed by Vedic priests is considered as punyaha. Thus, on the day when an auspicious rite like marriage (vivaha) or donning the upanayana (sacred thread) is to be performed, the performer, at the commencement of the ceremony, presents the Vedic priests assembled with gandha paste (sandal), pushpa (flowers) and tambula leaves (betel leaves) and requests them, with folded hands, to declare that day as auspicious, to which the priests assent unanimously.

The perform request “May auspiciousness attend this function”. The priests respond – om svasti (May it be auspicious). The performer continues “May you declare this day when I am conducting the marriage function as auspicious.” The priests reply, om punyaham (om may this be an auspicious day). The performer then says – may this ceremony be duly completed. The preists utter – “may this function be duly completed’.

Similar requests and answers are given for Shiva (auspicousness), Shanti (peace), pushti (fullness), tushti (happiness), avighnam (non-obstruction), sarvasampadah (plentitude), and the like. Along with their answers, the priests also throw turmeric-smeared akshasta (rice grains) on the performer.

Another type of punyahavacana relates to the purification of newly built house and also residences in which a birth or deah has taken place. In this case, Vedic Varuna hymns are chanted over clean water in a pot, and later the water in the pot is sprinkled all over the residence, using mango leaves.