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Ashirvada – Blessings In Hindu Religion

In Hindu religion, blessing, ashirvada, flows from the deep-rooted Hindu 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 in Hinduism can be traced to Vedas, Itihasas or epics, Puranas and Dharmashastras.

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

Matrdevo bhava, pitrdevo bhava, acharyadevo bhava (May the mother be your God! May the 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…’, etc., and repeat his 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 his lineage. In olden days, those who bowed before their preceptors were required to use the correct svara (accent) also, which was then reciprocated by the preceptors.

How do we benefit from venerating our elders and getting their blessings? Manusmriti states that longevity, learning, fame and strength increase in the case of those who venerate their elders. Elders here include virtuous people whose blessings will 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 and Shakuntala are among those who suffered this way.

Valmiki, while 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 cloth) before the assembled elders, and to the chanting of ashirvada mantras by purohitas, the elders put akshatas (unbroken rice, smeared with auspicious turmeric) into the angavastram. Akshatas are collected at the end and sprinkled on the yajamana’s head by elders by way of blessing.

Chiranjivi Bhava, Chiram Jiva, Ayushman Bhava (May you live long), etc., are some of the expressions for blessing when youngsters bow before elders. Married women are blessed to live long with their husbands (dirgha sumngali bhava or saubhagyavati bhava). Veneration of elders adds grace to social life and promotes spiritual wellbeing. In the Srivaishanva 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 Periyazhvar, 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.)