As the Malayalam month of Thulam (October-November) breaks, the Peruvanam temple resonates with enchanting Vedic chanting. That is the memorable time of the annual event called ‘Laksharchana’. Literally, it means offering flowers to the deity one hundred thousand times, in this case after chanting of a Vedic Mantra each time. It lasts for a week.
The traditional Peruvanam village, covering a vast area, has been a great centre for Yajurvedic learning from ancient times. About sixteen scholars of Yajurveda assemble at the central platform, called Namaskara Mandapam, in front of Irattayappan’s Sreekovil(sanctum sanctorum) and perform the ritual. The centre of the Mandapam would be decorated with what is called an Ashta dala padma (eight petalled lotus) using five natural colours (white, yellow, green, red and dark). This is done by the Moossad in charge who also arranges the lamps and other materials for Pooja. This particular pattern (Ashta dala padma) is quite intricate, pleasing and also said to be potent. The Thantri would conduct Pooja on a Kalasam (pitcher) placed over it and filled with Panchagavyam (five products from a cow namely, the urine, dung, milk, ghee and curd, the combination of which is said to be both divine and of great medicinal value) early in the morning, and sanctified water in the evening. The Vedic scholars would chant, by turn, each Mantra from Yajurveda with the Swaras (musical notes) one after another which is repeated by all others assembled and flowers are offered to the Kalasam after each Mantra. This is done until the time of Ucchappooja ( Pooja at noon) of Irattayappan. The Kalasam is offered as Abhishekam (pouring over the deity for bath) before the usual Navakam. This is repeated in the evening also (There is no Navakam in the evening). The entire Yajurveda is covered in one week by which time the required number (one hundred thousand) Mantras are completed, too. The whole event is conducted in the spirit of worship without any remuneration.
The late Sri Chittoor Narayanan Namboothiripad, KPC Narayanan Bhattathiripad and Kannamangalam Brahmadattan Namboothiripad have been at the helm of the entire Laksharchana affair ever since it started. The event has been sponsored by the Namboothiri Gramasabha of Peruvanam with effective support from the Peruvanam Mahadeva Trust and Peruvanam Sreemahadeva Kshetra Upadesaka Samiti. All those associated with the temple, such as the Thantris, other priests, Moossad, Nambissan, Marar and all others, offer their service free of cost.
There used to be a special offering of Yajur Vedic chanting, called Vaaram, in the evening on the final day. The Laksharchana would have concluded in the morning that day. The Vaaram is also conducted in the Mandapam. Randomly (said to be inspired by the deity) selected hymns from Yajurveda is chanted with the musical notes (Swaras) which is considered highly dear to the deity. Great care and concentration is needed to make sure that even minor errors do not creep in the syllables, their intonation or Swaras.
This is a ritual of great religious importance and merit. Gods are said to be pleased on hearing Vedic Mantras. Yajurveda is considered to be dear to Irattayappan who is Lord Siva. One particular hymn, called Sreerudram, occurring towards the middle of Yajurveda, is considered all the more auspicious. The most sacred of Saiva Mantras, “Om Namah Sivaya” (the Panchaksharam) was first revealed through this hymn. Participating in the ritual, by listening to the Vedic chanting, praying to the deity during those days, especially at the time of offering the enchanted Panhagavyam or rice to the deity (Abhishekam), is considered highly auspicious. Bottles of ghee or ashes brought by the devotees are placed on the Padmam which become empowered by the Vedic chanting. These become Prasadam for the devotees. Partaking of the Panchagavyam or rice after offering to the deity is also considered to be highly auspicious. It is also customary for the devotees also to sponsor part of the Archana.
The Laksharcha has a special significance to the Peruvanam temple. There used to be a much more elaborate worship of Irattayappan, called Thevar Seva, throughout the month of Thulam. The entire community of Vedic scholars in the village, over a hundred in number, used to take part in it. The whole of Yajurveda used to be chanted in full each day, often more than once by different group of scholars. This used to start early in the morning and last until the time of Uccappooja. There used to be Vaaram every evening, too.
Thevar Seva of ancient times came to an end in the middle of the 20th century. It was re-started in the present form of Laksharcha after a gap of 30 years around 1980.
It is unfortunate that the Yajurvedic scholarship is disappearing altogether from the Peruvanam village . The last living scholars like Kannamangalam Brahmadattan Namboothiripad and Vasudevan Namboothiripad, Kaplingad Divakaran Namboothiri, Alakkattoor Narayanan Namboothiri and Kapligad Krishnan Namboothiri are all over 75 years of age. The young generation has shown no interest to learn the Vedas. The Laksharchana is currently being held with the help of scholars from Irinjalakkuda for the past ten years. The Mandapam used to be filled with scholars from the village, like Ayiril Narayanan Bhattathiri and Chittoor Narayanan Namboothiripad. Except for the first mentioned four names all other scholars have left this world leaving only their glorious memory behind. The only ray of hope is that the Brahmaswam Matham at Trissoor, which has been a centre for Rig Vedic scholarship, has started offering, of late, Yajur Vedam (and Sama Vedam). None of the students are from this village, though. Thanks to this and to the only other centre at Irinjalakkuda, the great tradition of Yajurvedic learning has not disappeared altogether from the Kerala scene.