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(61) Rituals at the tirth

Yātriks (pilgrims) usually observe the following rituals at a tirth. The sentiment underlying the majority of these is the yātrik’s spiritual edification:

  • snān – bathing – in kund, river, lake or ocean. With the exception of an order of ascetics known a Nāgās, Hindus bathe in tirths with clothes, since a river, and water itself represents a deity. The greatest sacred bathing ritual in Sanātan Dharma occurs during the Mahā Kumbha Melā (see Ch.14).

Further, if the yātrik recalls any of his relatives while bathing, the latter receive one-eighth of his punya.

  • mundan (tonsure) – Males have their heads shaved, symbolising humility and sharanāgati – surrenderance. Women may have their braids cut ‘two-finger breadths.’ In Venkateshwara Bālāji on Tirumālā hills, women also undergo mundan, as an offering to Bhagwān, a rite known as Vazhipad or redemption of a vow.
  • darshan – of murtis, sadhus and other yātriks.
  • pujā – worship ritual of the murti, shrine or spot.
  • japa – mantra chanting in the form of dhun or mālā.
  • dhyāna / prārthnā– meditation and prayer.
  • kathā– listening to discourses.
  • abhishek – bathing deities with milk / water (see Ch.8).
  • pradakshinā/parikramāof the shrine
    Circumambulating a mountain, lake or river is known as parikramā.


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