Malankara World

History of Church

Practices and customs (“Anaachaarams”) for the Malayaala Braahmanans or the Namboothiries

by Prof. George Menachery & Fr. Werner Chakkalakkal, CMI

Listed below are the 64 practices and customs (“Anaachaarams”) believed to have been established by Sankaraachaaryar (788 – 820 AD) specially for the Malayaala Braahmanans or the Namboothiries of Kerala. Since these are not followed anywhere else, they are called “Anaachaarams” or non-conventions.

The following list has been chiefly copied from the Nampoothiri website for convenience,  a few English words in parenthesis inside square brackets have been added by the present writer in order to make the meaning a little clearer perhaps.

Also cf. the list appearing in the three volume Travancore State Manual edited by V. Nagam Aiya, Trivandrum, 1906, at pp. 267 – 271, Vol. III, Ch. IX, where under “Caste” Keralaacharams as distinct from East Coast customs of Brahmins are listed with annotations and discussed. Recently Dr. M. G. S. Narayanan has observed that these Anaacharams and caste observances could have been prescribed by some later Sankaraacharyar (“Introduction”, Menachery, George, Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage, Ollur, 2005):

1. Do not use twigs (a common practice elsewhere) for brushing teeth.

2. During the daily bath, do not bathe with the clothes worn till then.

3. Do not use the clothes worn till bath for wiping the body after bath (as a towel).

4. Do not bathe before sunrise.

5. Do not cook before bathing.

6. Do not use water stored (drawn from well) on the previous day for the next day’s use.

7. While performing daily rites, do not seek any results, be detached.

8. Excess water after “Soucham” [washing after using the latrine], “Aachamanam” (“Kaalukazhukal”) [washing the feet], etc. shall not be used for other purposes.

9. Braahmanans, desirous of purity (“Suddhi”) [“Cleanliness”] shall bathe if they touch “Soodran”, etc.

10. Bathe if lower caste persons come close.

11. Bathe (in a different pond), if the water in a pond is touched, if the same has been touched earlier by a lower caste person.

12. Bathe upon stepping on the ground which has been swept with broom, but has not been sprinkled with water.

13. “Bhasmam” (ash), etc. are to be smeared first vertically once and then horizontally in three lines.

14. Braahmanans while performing rituals, shall chant “Manthrams” themselves.

15. Do not use previous day’s food.

16. “Echil” (leftover food) of even children shall not be eaten by pious Braahmanans.

17. Food items (“Nivedyam”) offered to Lord Sivan are not to be consumed.

18. Food served with hand shall not be eaten.

19. Buffalo milk and ghee prepared from it shall not be used for religious rituals.

20. Rice shall be eaten only in the form of balls (“urula”), but such balls shall not be kept in the leaf as leftover.

21. If one is polluted in any form (“Asudhham”) [defiled, polluted], even betel-chewing is prohibited.

22. A “Brahmachaari” (boy during the period between Upanayanam and Samaavarthanam) shall observe “Nishthha” and “Vratham”.

23. “Gurudakshina” (appropriate offerings to the teacher) must be given after completing the study of Vedam.

24. Vedam shall not be recited on the streets.

25. “Shodasakarmams” shall be performed during the prescribed periods.

26. Girls shall not be sold.

27. “Vrathams” shall not be observed with the expectation of any results in mind.

28. Women who touch another woman in period, shall have to bathe before eating.

29. Braahmanans shall not spin thread.

30. Braahmanans shall not do the work of washermen.

31. Only Braahmanans are permitted to perform Siva Pooja on “Rudraaksham” (seed of the plant Eloeocarpus ganitrus), etc.

32. Braahmanans shall not receive “Sraadhha Dakshina” (ritual offer on the death anniversary) from a “Soodran”.

33. Braahmanans shall perform “Sraadhham” of their father’s and mother’s parents.

34. Sraadhham shall be performed on every “Amaavaasi” (new moon) day.

35. Upon the father’s or mother’s death, one shall observe “Deeksha” for one year.

36. At the end of Deeksha on the 12th month, “Sapindi” shall be performed.

37. If “Pula” or Asoucham comes during the Sapindi period, wait till Pula is over.

38. Sraadhham day is reckoned based on the star of the month (“Nakshathram”).

39. Children after being given for adoption to another family, shall perform Sraadhham of their own parents.

40. Cremation shall be in own land.

41. “Samnyaasi” (Saint) shall not look at women.

42. “Samnyaasi” shall not perform Pindam nor Sraadhham.

43. No ritual is performed when a Samnyaasi dies.

44. A Braahmana woman shall not look at any man other than her husband, father, grandfather or their brothers on either side.

45. Antharjanams (Namboothiri women) shall not move out of the house without a maid.

46.         They shall wear only white dress.

47.         They shall not pierce the nose.

48. “Bhrashtu” (excommunication) is imposed on a Braahmanan who consumes alcohol.

49. “Bhrashtu” is imposed also if he sleeps with any other Braahmana woman.

50. “Pretham” (spirit) [ghost] shall not be consecrated in temples.

51. The idols in temples (“Deva Prathishthha”) shall not be touched by “Soodrans”, etc.

52. Offerings made to one god shall not again be proffered to another god.

53. Marriages and other “Karmams” shall not be performed without “Homam”.

54. Braahmanans shall not bless each other, for, they are equals.

55. They shall also not prostrate before each other.

56. Do not sacrifice cows.

57. Saiva, Vaishnava and other such distinctions shall not exist.

58. Only one “Poonool” (Yajnopaveetham, sacred thread) should be worn by Braahmanans even after marriage.

59. Only the eldest son in the family shall marry an Antharjanam.

60. Sraadhham shall be performed only using rice.

61. Non-Braahmanans are not eligible to enter into Samnyaasam.

62. “Kshathriyans” and others shall perform Sraadhham for maternal uncles, since they follow matrilineal system.

63. A woman whose husband is dead, shall enter into Samnyaasam.

64. Braahmana women shall follow “Paathivrathyam” (chastity) strictly, but are prohibited from performing “Sathi” (immolation on husband’s funeral pyre).

These are the primary customs prescribed by Bhaargavan. But Bhaargava Smruthi contains a large number of less important practices (“Aachaarams”). ”

See Also:

Kodungallur - Cradle of Christianity in India
Extract from a book about the ancient St. Thomas Christians in Kerala. Chapter 1 and portions of chapter 2 are included.

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