Sandhyavandana (सन्ध्यावन्दनम्)

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Sandhyavandana is a mandatory religious ritual performed, traditionally, by Dvija communities of Hindus, particularly those initiated through the sacred thread ceremony referred to as the Upanayanam and instructed in its execution by a Guru, in this case one qualified to teach Vedic ritual. The Sandhyavandanam consists of recitation from the Vedas, accompanied by ritual. These rituals are performed three times a day- at morning, noon and evening.

The Sandhyavandanam is the oldest extant liturgy in world religion. As a practice, it may be descended from the much older daily Agnihotra ritual.

Sandhyavandanam literally means "salutation to Sandhya". Sandhya, in turn, has traditionally been interpreted either as "the transition moments of the day" (namely the two twilights dawn and dusk), or as "the solar noon". Thus, Sandhyavandanam may be defined as the ritual "salutation to twilight or the solar noon".

The steps in the Sandhyavandan always include the following essential components:

  1. Āchamana consists of Nama Sankirthana - taking the names of the Lord
  2. Prāṇāyāma is the ritual purification of internals via breathing exercises
  3. Mārjana is a ritual self-purification
  4. Mantra Prokshanam is a prayer for atonement of papas (पापम्)
  5. Aghamarshana (performed by some schools, especially Rig Vedins) is a prayer for forgiveness of papas
  6. Gāyatri japa is meditation
  7. Upastānam is a prayer to the Hindu deities Mitra (performed during the morning prayer) and Varuna (performed during the evening prayer)
  8. Abhivādana is a salutory introduction offered to all deities. It usually follows a prostration to the deities in each direction (dikpālas)

In addition to the above Vedic components of the Sandhyavandanam, many include the following Tantric component:

  1. Navagraha tarpana are offerings made every day to each of the nine planets.

Nityakarma

This is the basic regular rite to be performed by all Dvijas. Those who ignore are not eligible to perform any (Vedic) rite. It is called Nityakarma (a regular rite). One has to perform this rite three times a day. Sandhyā means twilight. The rite performed during twilight is also called Sandhyā or Sandhyāvandanam (salute of Sandhyā). All the Dvijas (i.e. who have undergone Upanayanam) have to perform Sandhyā. For Śūdras and ladies the sight of rising and setting Sun itself is considered as Sandhyāvandanam.

उतैनं गोपा अदृशन्नदृशन् उदहार्यः (नमकम्, रुद्राध्यायः, तैत्तिरीयसंहिता, ४.५)

utainaṃ gopā adṛśannadṛśan udahāryaḥ

(Namakam, Rudrādhyāyaḥ, Taittirīyasaṃhitā, 4.5)

That the cowboys have noticed him (the Sun) and the ladies fetching water also noticed him.

According to tradition water should not be fetched during night. Water is fetched during both the twilights by ladies and they notice the Sun during both the twilights. Since the cattle is taken out during morning twilight and brought back during evening twilight by cowboys , they notice the Sun during both the twilights.

There are seven principal constituents of Sandhyāvandanam:

  • Ācamanam (sipping of water thrice) – This is of three kinds and they are to be known through Ācārya. Ācamanam is to be done before and after Sandhyāvandanam.
  • Prāṇāyāma: This is related to Yoga.

श्वासप्रश्वासयोः गतिविच्छेदः प्राणायामः। पातञ्जलयोगसूत्रम्, २.४९॥

śvāsapraśvāsayoḥ gativicchedaḥ prāṇāyāmaḥ। Pātañjalayogasūtram, 2.49॥

Arresting the inhalation and exhalation is called Prāṇāyāma.

The air is inhaled (Pūrakam), then held for some time (Kumbhakam) and finally released (Recakam).

  • Mārjanam: Sprinkling himself with water while reciting certain Mantras.
  • Aghamarṣaṇam: Literally it means killing the papa. It is just like Mārjanam.
  • Arghyapradānam: Offering water purified with Gāyatrīmantra to Sun. Taittirīyāraṇyakam (2.2) says that some demons called Mandehas regularly try to hurt Āditya (Sun) and the Arghyam offered by Dvijas (Brahmavādins) would chase them down to an island called Mandehāraṇa. Arghyapradānam should be performed even during Aśaucam (impurity) due to birth of a child and by those, who for some reason or the other, cannot perform the complete Sandhyāvandanam.
  • Japa of Gāyatrī: One has to repeat Gāyatrīmantra for a minimum of one hundred and eight times or at least ten times.
  • Upasthānam: This is a prayer worshipping the Sun with (Vedic) Mantras in the morning, afternoon and evening, but evening the Sun in the form of Varuṇa.

Medhājananam: The intellectual capacity to retain the achieved knowledge for long (and produce as and when required) is called Medhā –

धीः धारणावती मेधा (अमरकोशः, धीवर्गः, २)

dhīḥ dhāraṇāvatī medhā (Amarakośaḥ, Dhīvargaḥ, 2)

The intellect with the capacity to retain for long is called Medhā.

The rite for the "generation of Medhā" is called Medhājananam. It is performed on the fourth day after Upanayanam.

Main components of the Sandhyavandanam

Poorvaangam

  • Āchamana and Angavandanam - Sipping water three times + purifying parts of the body
  • Ganapathi Dhyanam - Requesting Lord Ganeshaa for cessation of obstacles
  • Prāṇāyāma - (Prāṇā) Breathing (āyamaha) regulation exercise controls pranamayakosha ("physiological aspect"). The Pranamaya kosha includes five systems - Prana (respiratory system), apana (excretory system), vyana (circulatory system), samana (digestive) and udana (reversing system). Influences Anamayakosha (Anatomical aspect) and Manomayakosha (Emotional aspect). There are 2 types: Kevala pranayama (Done silently - focus is on body) and Sagarbha pranayama (recommended) (With mantra - health improves but we remain detached from body). Done 3 times to 10 times.

Meaning of Mantra - Pranava - Om means eeswarah (implying that God is everything). Vyahrithihi) - Bhu, bhuvaha etc. refer to 7 upper lokas (other 7 lower lokas are implied) are all God. Gayatri - Simple meaning - I meditate upon the light of the sun which activates our intelligent) Gayatri shiras (again says that God is everything - All waters (aapo), lights (jyothi), essences/nourishment(raso), God's nourishment (amrutham) is God).

  • Sankalpam - Taking the resolve - has benefit of auto-suggestion (telling yourself that this is your focus for next 15 odd minutes).
  • Prokshanam -
  • Jalaprashanam or Marjanam
  • Arghya pradanam
  • Navagraha Kesavathi Tarpana
  • Gayatri japam
  • Upasthaanam
  • Dik-Vandhanam
  • Abhivadanam
  • Samarpanam

In addition to the mantra, the ritual of Sandhya includes other rites that are purifying and preparatory (Sanskrit: Shuddhi mantras), serving to prevent distracting thoughts and bring focus to the mind. Some of these are propitiatory libations of water to the Gods of the planets and of the months of the Hindu calendar, atoning for Sandhyavandanams not performed and atoning for papas committed since the last hour of Sandhya. In addition, one of the most important rituals of Sandhyavandanam involves worshiping the Sun as Mitra in the morning and worshiping Varuna, in the evening.

Each Shakha of the holy Veda has its own unique way of sandhyavandanam. Shatatapa Smriti says a Dwija who doesn't do sandhyavandanam at least once will be a dog in the next birth. During Ashoucham (during death of any relative or birth of a child) sandhyavandanam is done without water and Darbham (Kusha grass). On Trayodashi, during sayam sandhya minimum gayatri japam and silence is prescribed by some vedik scholars. There are few additional mantras in Navagraha Kesavathi Tarpana for Bodhayana Sutra. They include Yama mantras, in addition to Navagraha Kesavathi mantras.

Daily duties of Brahmins

Doing Sandhya vandhana first creates the eligibility for a brahmin to do all rituals following it. Rituals done without doing sandhyavandhanam are regarded as fruitless by Dharmaśāstra. Thus, sandhyavandhana forms the basis or regarded as the foundation for all other vedic rituals. After doing Sandhyavandhana dhyannika Sandhya to get rid of papas occurred due preparation of lunch like boiling rice,cutting vegetables, burning firewood etc. In Vaishvadeva homa rice cakes are offered to vishvadevas (all devatas).