gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Tue Aug 5 12:18:37 CDT 1997
About a week ago, I requested information re shhashhtyaabdapurti -
the sixtieth birthday celebration and its significance as I had to
give a small talk on this matter. The List-members did not respond
to my request - probably for various reasons. However, I put together
a few paragraphs on this matter from Library sources and I am putting
this here for information of any List-members who may be interested.
............... We are outside India, but still trying to follow Indian
and Hindu traditions. We will all be reaching 60 sooner or later and we
want to know the significance of this particular shhashhtyaabdapurti
There are two ways to look at it, first in a practical sense and secondly what the
shaastraas say about it.
First, about practice: Completing sixty years is considered an auspicious
moment. The celebration of shhashhti-abdapurti is linked to the 60-year cycle of
our Hindu calendar. It is significant that when we reach 60, we complete one
cycle and reach the year of birth again. It is as if we successfully completed one
phase of our life and start a new phase, as if one is taking a new birth, but with a
different role and outlook.
Generally all rituals in a Hindu household are initiated by the elders and the
eldest in the family, be it a father or a grandfather. However,
shhashhti-abdapurti is generally done for the couple by their children. Thus, it
is not normal for people without children to celebrate the event themselves. The
significance is that the children have all been raised successfully, family
responsibilities have been fulfilled, and it is the children who celebrate the
event. One can interpret it as a sense of gratitude by the children and also as a
message by the children to the parents to say that henceforth they will take the
lead, take on the responsibilities including the responsibility of caring for the
parents in their elderly age. It is not uncommon for the couple to take the
marriage vows again and a new mangalasutram is tied to the wife by the
husband. I would assume this theoretically means reaffirmation of mutual
support after several years of married life and walking through different
situations in life.
Now, coming to what the shastraas say about this shhashhtyaabdapurti.
Scriptures say our objective and destiny is attainment of nirguna brahman. The
best and the royal route to reach it is the jnana marga, or the path of knowledge.
But there are jeevas who follow the karma path, or the path of action, i.e. doing
action, propitiation to the Gods and seek salvation. For jeevas who follow the
path of karma, the shastraas prescribe certain vratas which are rituals for the
betterment. These vratas or rituals can be broadly divided into two kinds,
praayaschitta vratah, for the atonement of past sins so that the jeeva can absolve
part of the karma that was acquired, so prayaschitta vratah is for the betterment
of the journey of the jeeva not only in this life but in future lives as well. The
second vratah or ritual is the santhi vratah whose motive is to remove evil
effects relating to this world. This shhashhtyaabdapurti vratah which is also
called ugraratha santhi is a santhi vratah, i.e. the fruits of this vratah
are for the betterment of life in this world and for prosperity.
There are procedures for conducting this santhi and the priests conduct it
according to vedic traditions. This ritual is to be conducted in the month of
one's birth and on the nakshatra of birth. The vedic tradition suggests
worshiping the God of Dharma and doing homam to Markandeya with
shhoDasopachara and also either 1008, or 108, or 28 or 8 offerings of verious
items. And Chanting of various vedic hymns like Shri Sukta, Purushha Sukta,
Rudram, Ayushhya mantra etc.
There are procedures of what should be offered to the priest, how to receive
blessings from the assembled elders and then partake in the food. The shastraas
say that whoever performs this ugraratha santhi would live for a hundred years,
all misfortunes will vanish and all prosperity will be his.
So, whoever believes in karma marga should perform this for the reasons that I
stated above. I congratulate the children [.....] for performing this for the
parents and I wish all prosperity for the [...] family.
Yadaa sarve pramucyante kaamaa ye'sya hr^di shritaah
atha martyo'mr^to bhavatyatra brahma samashnute Katha Upanishhad II.3.14
When all the desires that dwell in the heart fall away, then the mortal
becomes immortal, and attains Brahman even here.
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