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The Festival Of Paryaya -- part one

`paryaaya' is the system in which the responsibility of worshipping Sri Krishna and the management of His temple is undertaken in rotation by the eight piiThaadhipati-s of Udupi. The Swamiji who is in charge of the worship is known as the paryaaya Swamiji and his MaTha is known as the paryaaya MaTha. The duration of this tenure is known as the paryaaya period and the handing over of the worship form one Swamiji to another is known as the paryaaya festival.

Up until the time of Sri Vâdirâja, the period of paryaaya was for a duration of two months. In this way, each Swamiji had a term of worshipping in Krishna Mutt each sixteen months. Sri Vâdirâja celebrated his first two-year paryaaya at the age of 52 in the years 1532-33. It is believed that he did not change the tradition from his own paryaaya but started it from the 1522-23 paryaaya of Sri Palimar Mutt.

Each Mutt now has a two-year paryaaya. The twenty-ninth paryaaya cycle began in 1970 CE with the paryaaya of Sri Palimar Mutt and ended in 1986 with paryaaya of Sri Pejavar Mutt. The present 30th cycle will end in 2002 CE with the paryaaya of Sri Pejavar Mutt.

Preparation for Paryaya:

The preliminary rituals for paryaaya begin a year before the actual paryaaya. The four main rituals are:

baaLe muhuurta

During his term of paryaaya, each Swamiji will use untold amounts of tuLasi leaves for the daily services in Krishna Mutt and plantain leaves for daily meals and for the many special feasts held during this period. To ensure this, about one year before the paryaaya, on an auspicious day, plantain and tuLasi groves are established.

On the day of muhuurta the Mutt priests first pray to the nine planets. Then the MaTha workers carry tuLasi and plantain seedlings in procession to Krishna Mutt. On the way they are accompanied by the Krishna Mutt elephant and other paraphernalia. Prayers are first offered in the Chandreswara and Ananteshwara temples before the procession enters Krishna Mutt. Coins are offered to Sri Krishna and then prayers are offered so that there will be no shortage of tulasi leaves for pooja or plantain leaves for meals. After offering prayers to Sri Mukhya PraaNa (Hanuman) and Sri Madhvacharya, the workers then return their MaTha before going on to plant the seedlings.

Nowadays this is merely a ritual due to the resumption of MaTha lands by various governments over the years. `tuLasi' and plantain are grown commercially and sold to Krishna Mutt.

akki muhuurta

During the two year period of paryaaya, many thousands of people are fed. During special festivals up to 15 thousand people are fed at a time. I have been present when the crowd of devotees being fed has filled the raajaagaNa, vasantmahal, bhojana shaale, Ananteshwara Temple and Chandreshwara Temple, as well as any other place the devotees could be seated. It was estimated that up to 30 thousand were fed on that day. To cater for huge crowds such as this, as well as the many hundreds, sometimes thousands, who visit Krishna Mutt daily, special arrangements are made to stockpile the rice needed. This collection of rice begins from the harvest of the year preceding the paryaaya. To ensure an adequate supply of rice the ritual of akki muhuurta is performed.

This ritual is performed by the Swamiji himself. Prayers are offered in his Mutt to the nine planets and then a procession proceeds to the Chandreshwara and Ananteshwara Temples. A palanquin is nicely decorated and rice is placed on it and covered with a silken cloth. The procession is led by the Swamiji accompanied by the officials from his Mutt. Devotees walk behind carrying packs of rice on their heads. Prayers are offered in the Chandreshwara and Ananteshwara temples and in the noon a special feast is served. During the day the Swamiji-s of the other Mutts are honoured.

kaTTige muhuurta

This ritual is conducted some six months before the commencement of paryaaya. Once the collection of rice has begun it is time to begin collecting the firewood used in the cooking of foodstuffs during the paryaaya.

Some of the firewood is stored in a very artistic manner and the way it is stored is specialty of Udupi. The firewood is cut into varying lengths and then artistically piled up in the shape of the Brahma ratha. The end result is very impressive. To view this artistic endeavour you have to walk down behind the goshaala to the North-East corner of the Madhva Sarovara.

This ritual commences in the Mutt of the incoming paryaaya Swamiji where prayers are offered to the nine planets. A procession then sets out with the Mutt workers carrying loads of firewood. Prayers are offered at Chandreshwara and Ananteshwara temples and at Krishna Mutt and then the wood is carried down behind the goshaala. After the ritual of purifying the ground, the artists commence the construction of the firewood rath. Skilled artists work for many days on this task and the end result is truly remarkable. The firewood rath is some fifty feet in height and remains in place until the wood in it is used for cooking just before it is time to construct the rath for the next paryaaya.

I have seen this wooden rath but have never witnessed its construction. In this day and age of scarcity of wood for cooking, the rath is left as a permanent construction. The ritual of kaTTige muhuurta is still performed but the construction of the wooden rath is not.

bhatta muhuurta

This ritual is performed some seven or eight weeks before the new paryaaya. It is the ritual of gathering paddy from the new crop before the commencement of the paryaaya. Prayers to the nine planets are offered in the Mutt and then the paddy is placed on a palanquin, covered in a silken cloth, and carried in procession to Krishna Mutt. The procession proceeds to Chandreshwara and Ananteshwara temples where prayers are offered and after offering prayers in Krishna Mutt the procession proceeds to the baDagu maaLige which is the official storehouse for the paryaaya. The paddy is placed on a platform and the Mutt priests offer rituals of worship. The Mutt manager then offers fruits and remuneration to the scholars gathered there. From this time onward the incoming paryaaya Mutt takes charge of the baDagu maaLige.

On this day, another ritual takes place. By this time the construction of the wooden rath is completed and a decorated dome is carried in procession to the rath where it is ceremoniously handed over to the chief architect who has it placed on the top of the rath. This is the last of the preliminary rituals of paryaaya.

It can be seem from these rituals that they are conducted so as to acquire leaves for eating, rice for food, firewood for cooking, paddy for rice, and so on. Their sole aim is for the continuation of the tradition of mass feeding of pilgrims and devotees in Krishna Mutt. This tradition of mass feeding is why Sri Krishna of Udupi is known as anna brahma.

This section is by Raymond Crawford. Some of the material comes from a book published for the 1984 paryaaya of H.H. Sri Vishwesha Tiirtha Swamiji, by Bannanje Govindacharya, U.P. Upadhyaya, and Muralidhar Upadhyaya

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Created October 4, 1996; last updated August 10, 2001.