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Spiritual evenings for the devout



A TIME FOR PRAYER: A family gets together for prayer as the Ramayana month begins. Photo:Vipinchandran

For 32 days commencing July 17, Hindu homes and temples in the State will resound with chants from the great Indian epic Ramayana, signalling a period of spiritual revival. The Ramayana month which coincides with the dawn of Karkitakam in the Malayalam calendar is marked by readings from the epic.

Mornings and evenings, devotees gather at temples to recite or hear the Adhyatma Ramayanam Kilippattu of Thunchath Ezhuthachan, the father of Malayalam literature. The entire text is read in 32 days.

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has made arrangements for Ramayana recital in major temples in the city. The Thunchan Smaraka Samithy at Iranimutam has planned an elaborate festival titled Ramayana Sandhya, under which all the cantos of the epic are read by reputed religious scholars every evening. The Vyloppilly Samskriti Bhavan is another major venue where devotees flock to hear the chanting.

Temple authorities and various cultural forums in the city and suburbs have organised discourses and debates on the Ramayana. Malayalis believe that reading the epic gives them spiritual strength to tide over the hardships of the lean season.

On the eve of the first day of the month, houses are swept clean, disinfected and sanitised. Organic rubbish is bundled into an earthen pot and discarded outside the precincts to the accompaniment of chanting, an act that symbolises the banishment of ill omens.

Non-vegetarian food is avoided and the menu shifts to green leafy vegetables and medicinal broth to fortify the body against disease.

This is also the season when bookshops witness a spurt in the demand for copies of the Ramayana. Religious publishing companies are falling over themselves to offer affordable versions. Both the TDB and the Thunchan Smaraka Samithy have made arrangements to provide copies of the Ramayana at concessional rates. English versions of the Ramayana are reported to be selling well. C. Rajagopalachari's translation is the most sought after.

A handful of vernacular newspapers have also launched daily columns on interpretations of the Ramayana.

Spiritually-inclined netizens will not be disappointed this Ramayana month.

The spiritual fervour has spilled over into the cyber realms, with various Internet websites dedicated to excerpts from the Ramayana. Ramayana.com, one of the popular sites, features verse selections from the epic with cross words and puzzles to maintain the interest.

Other sites like Valmikiramayan.net and Hinduism.org are also geared up for the occasion with various Ramayana resources. Certain days of the month, determined by the lunar calendar, are auspicious to perform rites for departed souls at temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

<167,2p>T. Nandakumar

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