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So what is the Ati Rudram? To understand this, we have to do some basic mathematics.

Eleven recitations of the Sri Rudram (Namakam) followed by one recitation of the Chamakam is called the Ekadasa Rudram. This also constitutes one unit of the Rudra Homam.

Eleven Ekadasa Rudram recitations make one Laghu Rudram. (11x11=121 times of Namakam and 11 times recitation of Chamakam). This is achieved if 11 priests chant 11 times the Namakam and 1/11 of the Chamakam for every single recitation of the Namakam. [Editor’s Note: The Namakam and Chamakam are each divided into 11 anuvakyas or sections. Hence for each recitation of the Namakam they chant one anuvakya or 1/11 portion of the Chamakam].

Eleven Laghu Rudram recitations make a Maharudram (11x11x11=1331 Namakams and 121 Chamakams). This is achieved if everyday 11 priests chant 11 times for 11 days.

And eleven Maharudram recitations make an Ati Rudram! Thus, in an Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam, the Namakam will be recited 14,641 times and the Chamakam 1331 times, with the performance of 1331 Rudra Homams by 121 Ritvik priests. (121 priests x 11 times per day over 11 days).

So one can ask the question - if this yagnam is being performed since time immemorial for conferring spiritual benefit and for loka kalyanam and loka kshema, what is the necessity of reciting the Chamakam, which confers mere material benefits. The Chamakam (in this context) is now a prayer to the Lord to provide all the articles required for the homam. The list is exhaustive and comprehensive, from lentils of several varieties, to fuel, ghee and fruits. The usage of material things in the service of the Lord is after all one of the highest form of devotional service.

The 121 priests are spread over 11 homa kundams (fire pits), with each kundam associated with 11 priests. Apart from these 121 priests there will be 14 other priests who will do pujas to various deities, thus totalling to 135 ritviks who will take part in this yagnam. A detailed explanation of the importance of the number 11 is given in the box below.



This really begs the question – why the fascination with the number 11? The answer is quite simple as there are 11 primary names of Lord Shiva. Hence the Yagya mantapa or the Yagya shala (the sanctified place where the yagya will take place) had 11 homa kundams, specially set up for the occasion in Sai Kulwant Hall. Each homa kunda was in the shape of a square of length 5 feet. It attained a height of 3ft over three tiers.

The homa kundams were constructed of bricks and cement and then painted over. The base of the homa kundam had a refractory material that could withstand high heat. The homa kundams were filled with sand on the inside up to a height of a foot or a foot and a half and in this pit the wood was burnt to generate the fire to convey the offerings. The layout of the yagya shala is represented in the figure above.

Yagya Shala
View Of Homa Kundams

Each of the homa kundam is associated with a name of Lord Shiva. The Central or main pit (No 1) is associated with the name Mahadeva. The names associated with the other homa kundams numbered 2 through 11 in the figure are: (2) Devadeva, (3) Ishwara, (4)Vijaya, (5) Adityatmaka Rudra or Sri Rudra, (6) Bheema, (7) Shiva, (8) Rudra, (9) Neelalohita, (10) Bhavodbhava and (11) Shankara.

In addition to these 11 homa kundams, kalasams (sacred pots) totalling 160 were placed near the Homa Kundams: 132 kalasams for Lord Shiva and 28 kalasams for the other Vasthu devatas (or the subordinate Gods).

A curved pot full of water on which a coconut is placed surrounded by mango leaves or the equivalent is called a kalasam. This kalasa can be quite simple or elaborate depending on the event or preferences. The curved pot called kalasam contains water from one of the holy rivers of India.

The water from some of the holiest rivers of India were also placed in a separate stand and labelled with the name of the river from which the water was collected. A Kalasa puja was performed in honour of the seven rivers of India and to invoke the god Varuna to bless and purify the water.

Kalasam Stand
Water Stand

The whole Yagya Shala was constructed with permitted materials in front of the veranda dais. The pillars supporting the constructing were made from the wood of the Araca Nut tree as was the top side railing. Decorations of tender coconut and araca nuts lined the pillars and the top of the railing. The base of the pillars was held in place by huge boxes filled with sand and topped up with painted tender coconuts. Metal strings were also used to tie the structure to the columns in Sai Kulwant Hall for further stability. Ferns and coconut leaves were woven together to form a sheltering fabric for the Yagya shala. The top portion of the Yagya Shala was entirely open so as to provide an exit for the smoke that was generated from the offerings to the 11 homa kundams! And on some mornings Swami even had the rolling roof of Sai Kulwant Hall opened to let the smoke out.

Decoration Pillar
The Decorated Veranda

Additionally the veranda was also exquisitely decorated. A floral arch was constructed around the Lord Ganesha statue and some oversized decorative lingams were also placed on the veranda to provide the right ambience. Amber coloured focus lights also lent a homely warmth to the veranda.

An ornately decorated table with a marble top was placed immediately in front of the veranda and on this the abhisekham (bathing ceremony) of the marble Shiva linga was carried out during the entire yagnam. This Shiva linga was installed on a silver base called ‘Pannupattam’.

Shiva Linga

As per the ‘Kurma Purana’ this Athi Rudra Maha Yagna was performed in Dwapara Yuga by Lord Krishna. In the Treta Yuga, Lord Sri Rama also performed the same as per Hindu Vedic scriptures. This is the first time in the history of Kali Yuga that this yagna is being performed when Lord Sathya Sai is in the “Siva Sakthi” avatar amidst us as Lord Rudra.

This yagnam was started on August 9th, when ‘Sravana’ star was in sway (which is the birth star of Lord Vishnu) and ended on August 20 th in ‘Aarudra Star’ (which is the birth star of Lord Sathya Sai).

The programme began on the morning of the 9th itself when Swami, the Rudra Avatar Himself, presented the 135 rithviks (priests performing the Yaaga) with sets of ceremonial clothing to be worn during the Yaaga.

This distribution ceremony called Acharyadi Ritvik Varana was done in the holy precincts of the bhajan mandir of Sai Kulwant Hall where the priests had assembled early in the morning. After the distribution, the priests chanted some mantras in the Divine presence before the conclusion of the morning’s ceremony.

Then for the next 12 days we had an unimaginable gourmet spiritual treat in store. The yagnam rituals performed over these days can be broadly classified into 4 different categories:


Priests Coming Out Of Bhajan Hall With Clothes

1.The ceremony of the 9th evening when the lingam was purified for installation.

2. The Installation ceremony on the morning of the 10th, which included the rudra parayana, linga abhisekham and rudra homam.

3.The morning and evening ceremonies from the third day to the 11th day which were identical and repeated every day.

4.The Poorna Ahuti or the concluding ceremony on the morning of the 12th day.

Every evening after the conclusion of the afternoon (and the day’s) ceremony all the priests took their places in front of the veranda and it was the turn of one or two eminent speakers to educate everyone on one aspect of Shiva or to elucidate some aspects of the yagnam that was being conducted. All these speakers were either accomplished Vedic scholars or eminent men known for their deep spiritual knowledge and all of them held everyone spellbound with their oratory and the sheer wealth of the spiritual experience that they shared with the audience every day. And on almost all evenings, Swami also pleasantly surprised everyone with His divine discourse. And after the speeches there would be devotional songs either by budding artistes from Karnataka or on Swami’s command the SSSIHL boys would perform.

Vedic Scholars Gave Speeches
Eminent Men Inspired The Audience


In order to present this material in a readable and understandable manner, we depart a bit from our normal format of reporting the events in a chronological manner. We will first talk about the yagnam per se following the 4 grouping that we listed above. Normally we also report on all the speakers, but as some extracts from their speeches has already been reported in the cover story we will not repeat it here again.

The full text of the divine discourses is also already available on-line (click here), so we will again not follow our normal practise and bring you summaries that contain the essence of what Swami said that day. We will, of course, bring you these speeches and divine discourses on Radio Sai so we hope you are able to listen to them either through the Radio Sai Global Harmony or through our audio streaming service. To download the chants of the Vedic priests, click here.

We will however, report in full on the musical events that took place almost every day and we sincerely hope that you like this changed format of the report for this month only.

Divine Discourse

The Function On The 9th Evening (The First Day)

The evening of the 9th was the start of the yagnam. All the rithviks, chanting vedic hymns and accompanied by auspicious Nadaswaram music, entered Sai Kulwant Hall in a procession and received Swami with the Purna Kumbha. Swami lit the lamp to inaugurate the Yaaga.

The Priests In Procession
Swami Lighting The Lamp

After lighting the lamp, Swami took His seat on the veranda. The yagnam started with the invocation song, sung by the bhajan group from Brindavan, entitled "Athi Rudra Maha Yagna Purusha Sai".

Swami asked Sri Vinay Kumar and Sri Lakshmi Narayan to speak to the audience. Sri Vinay Kumar recounted how when he had asked Swami’s permission to perform the Ati Rudra Yagnam on June 13th for Rudra’s joy and satisfaction, Swami had replied, “But I am always joyous and satisfied”. He went on to explain how the yagnam would be performed. Sri Lakshmi Narayan, also a co-organiser speaking next also related Swami’s involvement in all aspects of planning for the yagnam.

Sri Vinay kumar
Lakshmi Narayan



After these two speakers, Sri Nanjunda Dikshitar, the chief rithvik, gave a very illuminating talk on the significance of the Athi Rudra Mahaa Yaaga. After these talks, Swami unexpectedly gave a Divine Discourse. He said,

Athi Rudra Maha Yajnam is noble and sacred. Those who perform it are blessed. The key is to do it with unity. This will lead to purity and then to divinity. The 6 vices are your enemies. Keep them away. You are all embodiments of the ATMA. Be happy, healthy, peaceful and spiritual. But one cannot be happy without devotion. Immerse yourself in devotion and not the deep ocean (of Samsara)”.

Divine Discourse

After Swami sat down, the Head priest obtained Swami’s blessing for the implements with which the puja would be done. The Yaaga then began with the Maha Ganapathi Puja, after specification of the place and time of the Yaaga in the traditional way:

Priests Getting Swami’s Blessings
A View Of The Puja

"In this spacious Universe, on Earth, on the continent of Jamboodvipa, in the land of Bharat (India), in the State of Andhra, in the holy pilgrimage site of Puttaparthi on the banks of the holy Chitravathi River, in the year Vyaya, during Dakshinaayana, on the first day of the month of Sraavana, on Budhavaar ( corresponding to Wednesday, August 9, 2006), until the 12th day of the month of Sraavana, Aadivaar." (Sunday, August 20).

Afterwards Svasthi Vaachanam, Svasthi Punyaaha Vaachanam (prayers for auspiciousness and blessings for the Yaaga and the people) took place.

This is for the negation and purification of any inadvertent errors in conducting the Yaaga, or any impurities in the materials used. This is traditionally done before any auspicious religious ceremony is conducted.

Next was the Raksha Bandhan Ceremony to the newly made Sivalinga, for auspiciousness and protection. Swami also created a beautiful golden bracelet and personally put it on Sri Vinay Kumar, the Sri Sathya Sai Karnataka Youth leader, who along with the youth of Karnataka conducted the Athi Rudra Mahaa Yaga, under the guidance and blessings of Bhagavan.

Bracelet for Vinay

The milk white marble Shiva Linga was ceremoniously bathed in water in ‘Jala Proshana’. Then Purvaanga Godaana was performed. A well-decorated cow and her calf were welcomed with auspicious music and vedic hymns, worshipped with mantras according to the Shastras, and then given away to a Brahmin. Among all auspicious good deeds, the gifting of a cow is traditionally considered the highest and holiest act of charity.

Bathing The Linga In Water
Worshiping Of Cow And Her Calf



In the Yagna Hall, the Lord in His many Forms was invited with prayers to install Himself in the forms of many kalashas in a ceremony called as kalasha sthapana. [The kalasha is a pot filled with water, and topped with mango leaves and a coconut. The kalasha has many symbolic meanings - it represents the Primordial Waters, the Super Soul filled with love and compassion, abundance, and hospitality. The mango leaves are for auspiciousness. The coconut is a symbol of the Godhead, the eyes of the coconut symbolic of the three eyes of the Lord.]

For the correction of any errors in Vaasthu (location and construction), deviating from Scriptural guidelines, Vaasthu Puja to all the eight deities like Yama, Varuna, Agni, Vayu, Kubera etc. was performed.

Another View Of The Puja


Pancha Gavya Aaraadhana was also performed (Panchagavyas are cow’s milk, cow ghee, cow dung, cow urine, and yoghurt made of cow’s milk) These five items were used in this yagna and hence the process of sanctifying them is called “Pancha Gavya Aradhana”.

Subsequently, various pujas were conducted in accordance with the shastras. The Shiva Linga was bathed or anointed for some time successively with water, milk, rice, flowers, fruits, honey and sugar. This seva is traditionally performed during installation and consecration of deities, as directed by the shastras.

Then around 4:30 PM “Bimba Suddhi” puja was performed to the newly brought lingam. (This means removing all the mistakes committed while carving the lingam by the sculptor).

Then rituals (done to a newly born baby) known as ‘Pumsavana’ (3rd month ritual); ‘Seemantham’ (6th month ritual), Dasama Maasa Jananaartham (removal of doshams in the tenth month) etc. were also performed.

Bathing The Linga With Milk

The installation and consecration of the Lord in this particular image or form of the Shiva Linga, is considered equivalent to the Lord being born in this world in this form, so all of the Shastric rites conducted during birth were also performed for the Shiva Linga.

The Lingam In Its Stand
The Lingam Is Placed In A Bed Of Flowers And Fruit

[The lingam is traditionally used to represent Lord Shiva and has a deep meaning and significance. It is considered the “amorphous’ form of Lord Shiva. The Lord is in the 3 forms i.e. the formless state of God, the lovely ash-smeared form of Lord Shiva with the blue throat and the snakes around His waist that we are all familiar with, and in the lingam – the amorphous state of formlessness and yet also with form, as the lingam has no defined beginning and end. The lingam is thus indicative of the beginningless and endless Brahman. Lingam is a combination of two words namely Leeyathe (mergence) and Gamyathe (emergence) suggestive of the creation and dissolution of the Universe].

The Shayyadheevasa ('sleeping' of the Lord) was next performed. The lingam was literally placed in a cozy bed with fruits, flowers and incense. Lullaby was sung and music played in 5 ragas as the two chamargrahas (fan bearers) gently fanned the Lord. Sentries - Indra on the East, Agni (S.E), Yama (S), Nirariti (SW), Varuna (W), Vayu (NW), Kubera (N), Shiva (NE), Brahma (above) and Ananta (below) - were posted to ensure a peaceful rest to the Lord!

With these Agama Shastra Rites, the Ashtavadhana Seva, the day’s ceremonies concluded with the Maha Mangala Aarathi. As the Lord retired, arthi was sung and the eventful evening came to a close at 6:45 PM.

Fanning The Lingam To Sleep
The 100 Wick Lamp Arathi

The Function On Aug 10th - the Second Day

On the morning of the 10th, the entire ‘packed to overflowing’ hall was abuzz with excitement. At the centre of the hall was an ornate table in wood with a marble topping on which was placed the pedestal with the lingam. The priests had begun the day by getting the lingam ready for Swami to do the prana prathista (installing life in the lingam).

The first ceremony was Aruna Parayana, followed by Kalaa Homa and Anga Homa. Kalaa and Aavaahana were performed for the Shiva Linga. Aavaahana was performed to all the kalashas with Veda Mantras. Before Praana Prathishtapana (invocation and consecration of the Life Force) was conducted for each kalasha, all of the necessary ceremonies required by the scriptures were performed, including “Netronmeelana” to the Siva lingam. Netronmeelana means opening of the eyes of a new born baby (in this case the Siva linga).

Performing the Aruna Parayana
Performing The Preparatory Puja

The white-stone lingam sat on its silver pedestal. On it was smeared a “third eye” of sandal paste and vermillion. It was decorated with a garland of bilva leaves. It had above it a silver-golden bowl, hanging from a support, with intricate carvings and studded with precious gems. This silver bowl was called the “Dhara patram”, and it had a small hole at the bottom. When this vessel was filled with a fluid – either water or milk etc., it flowed out through the hole in a continuous stream on to the lingam below, giving it an abhisekham (a ritual bath).

Swami came out of the Yajur Mandir around 6:15 AM and got down from the car in front of the lingam itself where He was welcomed by the head priest with holy water to be offered to the Lingam. He was helped on to a pedestal and He sprinkled water on the lingam with the aid of a long brush braided from holy grass, while the ritual prayer was being recited by the priests.

Closeup Of The Linga With Dhara Patram
Sprinkling Sanctified Water On The Lingam

Then to everyone’s astonished gasps, with the merest wave of His hand, Swami materialized a “third eye” for the Lingam. It was a “namam” [namam refers to the three parallel vibhuti lines that followers of Lord Shiva apply to their foreheads] of three lines made of gold plate with a red gem at its centre. Swami Himself placed the “eye” on the lingam and stuck it there and completed the picture.

Materialising The Third Eye
Sticking It On The Lingam

The priest then performed arathi to the lingam and Swami together. Swami then went walking around the table, up the steps and took His place on the veranda. Thus after the installation of the Shiva Linga with Vedic rites, Swami Himself had performed the Praana Prathishtapana for the Shiva Linga and the Siva lingam was now born and considered to be imbued with life. The yagnam began with a song in Tamil by a 13 year old boy Karthick calling out to Lord Sankara as the mother and the father of all mankind. It set a tone of devotion to the entire proceedings.

After the Birth Ceremony, the Naming Ceremony was performed. Swami Himself gave the Shiva Linga the name “Sai Easwara”. The Head priest (Sri B.S. Nanjunda Dixit) made this announcement to the congregation to the utter delight of everyone assembled there.



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