Did you know that as per Agamas a priest has to enter a temple exactly 12 minutes before 5 a.m.? And that he has to wake up five naazhigai (measure of time where one naazhigai stands for 24 minutes) before sunrise, which works out to around two hours? He has 48 minutes to get ready and head out to work.
“As for the morning rituals in the temples, there are more rules. The moola agama and the vazhi noolgal prescribe the nithya puja (daily rituals) that have to be done at the temple. There are 28 Saiva Agamas,” explained Kapali Vaidhyanatha Gurukkal, an Agama expert and an archaka at the Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple.
Some 50-odd archakas attached to other Saivaite temples have been attending his classes that are a refresher course for the seniors and a fresh course for the juniors. Based on a curriculum approved by the Department, he fits in astrology, Agamas, tales from the puranas , slokas used in various rituals, and even rules pertaining to repair and renovation of temples.
The classes that are being held at the Sri Palaniandavar Temple in Vadapalani began last month and will go on till the end of this month.
“We fixed a curriculum for five years where every year, the subjects would change. Last year we taught them about how a temple should be constructed, beginning with the bhumi puja .” This year, the focus is on installation of idols and performing kumbabhishekam , explained an official source in the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department.
For archakas like S. Chandrasekara gurukkal of the Sri Komaleeswarar Temple, afternoon is the time they take a break after standing for nearly seven hours. But spending those precious moments at the class is worthwhile, he says. “Though we may know the rituals, the explanations offered are helpful. Many times when devotees ask us, we feel bad that we are unable to answer properly. I have attended every class without a break, even on p radhosham day,” he said. Similar classes are being held for bhattars attached to Vaishnavite temples by experts.