The Divine days of the month of Ramayanam

     With the advent of the rain-drenched month of Karkkidakam (mid-July to mid-August), the state of Kerala gets serenely devotional. This is the month when pious Hindus recite Ramayanam, the month being designated as ‘Ramayana Maasam’. Ancient scholars looked at this month as the time of passage of Lord 292 Rama. Another understanding applicable to the month is that ‘Ra’ or darkness gets ‘maayanam’ or wiped off. So, it is Rama’s Ayanam (journey) or Maayanam (wiping out) of Ra (darkness) that it signifies .
     Ayanam or the journey of the Lord begins in the first canto or Baalakaandam of the Epic Ramayanam and does not even stop after the Lord’s coronation, but only in the Uttarakaandam (last chapter) when He gets immersed along with his close disciples in the blue waves of the river Sarayu. With that, His purpose of incarnation is completed as ‘Thretha Yuga’ comes to an end. (According to Hindu concepts, one day of Brahma comprises of four Yugas; Satya, Dwaapara, Thretha and Kali. We are into about 5000 years of Kali Yuga)
     Karkkidakam is the last month of Malayalam year, a season when rain and darkness engulf nature, along with unemployment and halted cultivation. It is usually a ‘dark’ time for people. Perhaps for that reason, it is also called ‘Panja Karkkidakam’, the pauper month. During such depressing months only divine thoughts can keep our minds calm, when even the most principled person with the noblest of mind-set gets gloomy and depressed.
     Lord Sri Rama is the incarnation of Thretha Yuga, noted for his ultimate love and compassion. In his life He is God coming to earth as a human being to annihilate demons Ravana and Kumbhakarna. He is above emotions, staying calm when his father wishes for his coronation, or when his aunt orders him to the jungle. Even when he exiles his wife Sita as per the wishes of his citizens, he does not show any emotions. No other great scriptures describe such kindness, respect and love like Sri Rama.
     All Keralites, irrespective of age start reading Ramayana on the first day of Karkkidakam at the entrance hall of the house in front of a lighted traditional lamp, Nilavilakku. The dark, dreary twilight of the Karkkidakam month will get brightened as we recite the serene poetry of Ramayanam. The firm association of Ramayanam and Karkkidakam is thus established.
     The most important canto of Ramayanam is the Sundara Kaandam. It narrates the valiant trip of Hanuman, the ultimate devotee of Sri Rama across the ocean to Sri Lanka in search of Sita, meeting with her and exchanging the ring that Rama has given her with her hair ornament and then burns down a major portion of Ravana’s palace. The canto is believed to relieve sorrow and obstacles in life, and bring in prosperity. It is mentioned that the sacred verses are even capable of dousing the fury of gods and goddesses.
     As per astrology, Karkkidakam is the fourth of the twelve months of the year, starting from Medam. It symbolizes motherhood, family unity and traditions. Sri Rama was born on star Punartham in the month of Karkkidakam. It is also the month which opens the door to prosperity of the month, Chingam. After working hard for eleven months, people take rest during the dark and rainy month of Karkkidakam, building their energy and enthusiasm to resume work in the New Year.
   Karkkidakam is also believed to be the month of our departed ancestors, ‘Karanavers’ of many generations. The full moon day of Karkkidakam (Karkkidaka Vaavu), is the day we observe penance, offering respect to the ancestors. Doing such ‘Kriyas’, we believe in an objective, remembering those who gave us birth and our bodies out of theirs, thus paying respect and showing gratitude for their generosity. It is also a process by which we teach our children and future generations of a culture remembering ancestors, offering them respect and getting their blessings. It is when we pray that our children will live along principles of Dharma, that of honesty, fairness, law and order. Each generation has to live along such paths of Dharma in order to expect their children to follow the same principles and pass on such traditions to their children. This is the essence of the principles of ‘Kriyas’ as we offer our deference to our ancestors
     Let us use the month of Karkkidakam to re-establish and solidify relationships, to forgive and forget, and to respectfully reminisce our ancestors through the reading of the sacred text of Ramayana.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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