Monday 4 April 2022

How To Knock the Head During Shuklam Baradharam as Per Scriptures?

Every common Hindu is familiar with the upper limb gesture we colloquially refer to as the 'Pillaiyar Kuttu'. You will find devotees performing this in front of Lord Ganapati in temples.

So, what is the significance of this ritual? Foremostly, are we performing the gesture in accuracy as instructed by our scriptures? Let's see.

The 'Pillaiyar Kuttu' is well described in the Shaiva Agamas. 

Let us look at the shloka of reference, from the Shaiva scriptures. We find this shloka appearing in the upa-agamas:

यत्र यत्र क्रियारम्भे मुष्टिभ्यां मूर्ध्नि देशिकः । विनायकं नमस्कृत्य कुट्टनं पञ्चवारकम् ।। अमृतं यत्सुषुम्नायां सरितामिव सागरम् । मूलाधारस्थविघ्नेशं प्राप्य कर्म शुभावहम् ।। हस्तौ तु वामसव्यौ च मुष्टि मुद्रां प्रकल्पयेत् । मध्यमाङगुलिभिश्चैव मस्तके सम्प्रताडयेत् ॥ मस्तकस्थामृतेनैव शरीराङ्गानि सेचयेत् । अमृताप्लावनेनैव विघ्नराजप्रियो भवेत् ।।

yatra yatra kriyārambhe muṣṭibhyāṃ mūrdhni deśikaḥ । vināyakaṃ namaskṛtya kuṭṭanaṃ pañcavārakam ।। amṛtaṃ yatsuṣumnāyāṃ saritāmiva sāgaram । mūlādhārasthavighneśaṃ prāpya karma śubhāvaham ।। hastau tu vāmasavyau ca muṣṭi mudrāṃ prakalpayet । madhyamāṅgulibhiścaiva mastake sampratāḍayet ॥ mastakasthāmṛtenaiva śarīrāṅgāni secayet । amṛtāplāvanenaiva vighnarājapriyo bhavet ।।


Prior to any kriya, we demonstrate the mushti mudra. This is a mudra where we clench the fists, with the proximal interphalangeal joints of the three digits - index finger, middle finger and ring finger in flexion. The thumb and little finger are to be placed at a plane lower than the mentioned digits.

In simpler words, we simply clench the fist with the index, middle and ring finger in protrusion.

The diagram below will illustrate the pramana: 

The acarya ( deshikaH ) is required to use the three protruding fingers of both hands to knock his head ( murdhni ).

This is done as worship to Lord Vinayaka ( Vinayakam namaskrtya ).

How many times do we knock our heads?

kuṭṭanaṃ pañcavārakam

We knock 5 times. This can represent the 5 heads and 5 upper limbs of Lord Ganesha ( the trunk is included as a limb ). It can be associated with the 5 elements too.

Why do we do this?

amṛtaṃ yatsuṣumnāyāṃ 

We visualize a pot of amrta ( nectar ) in our dvadashanta ( located 2 inches above crown centre), at the peak of our Sushumna nadi. As we knock our head in the prescribed manner, we topple the pot of nectar, so as to say.

The amrta then pours and drenches all the nadis, thus purifying them. This is nadi shuddhi.

We find the muladhara chakra at the base of the sushumna nadi.

Atharva Veda's revelation on the presiding deity of Muladhara chakra

In the Ganapati Upanishad of the Atharva veda, we find a verse :

त्वं मूलाधार-स्थितोऽसि नित्यम्

tvaṃ mūlādhāra-sthito'si nityam

Meaning: You eternally reside in the muladhara chakra, Lord Ganesha.

saritāmiva sāgaram

The endpoint of a river is the ocean. Likewise, the amrta which flows from the Sushumna ultimately reaches the Muladhara, the home of Lord Ganesha.

We visualize Lord Ganapati being cooled by a bath by the overflowing amrta, Who then blesses us upon being pleased.

mūlādhārasthavighneśaṃ prāpya karma śubhāvaham 

With Lord Ganapati's blessings thus, our karma ( action ) at the beginning of a ritual achieves success.

How To Perform Pillaiyar Kuttu?

hastau tu vāmasavyau ca muṣṭi mudrāṃ prakalpayet 

We hold both left and right hands in mushti mudra...

madhyamāṅgulibhiścaiva mastake sampratāḍayet

We should only use the three digits, namely the index, middle and ring finger to knock the head properly, such that the sound produced is audible. We should avoid hitting the forehead. The point of knock should be behind the ears.

Image: Shivashri Somashekara Shivacharya M.A, my guru for Shaiva tantra demonstrating the accurate way to knock the head with the mushti mudra 

शुक्लाम्बरधरं विष्णुं शशिवर्णं चतुर्भुजम् ।

प्रसन्नवदनं ध्यायेत् सर्वविघ्नोपशान्तये ॥

śuklāmbaradharaṃ viṣṇuṃ śaśivarṇaṃ caturbhujam ।

prasannavadanaṃ dhyāyet sarvavighnopaśāntaye ॥

....sarva vighna upaśāntaye....

all obstacles shall be removed

In a nutshell, the Pillaiyar kuttu purifies the nadi, conferring nadi shuddhi. This faciliates the pranayama and nyasa we perform before a ritual.

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