The “Athirathram” ritual held at Panjal village in Thrissur district was the focus of a detailed study by a team of scientists led by Prof V P N Nampoori, former director of the International School of Photonics, Cochin University of Science and Technology.
The scientists had focused on the fire ritual’s scientific dimensions and impact on the atmosphere, soil and its micro—organisms and other potential environmental effects. The yagna seems to have accelerated the process of seed germination and also the microbial presence in air, water and soil in and around the region of the fire ritual is vastly diminished, according to a statement released by the Varthathe Trust, who organised the ritual. The team had planted three types of seeds — cowpea, green gram and Bengal gram — on all four sides of the ritual venue at varying distances. They found that the growth was better in case of pots kept closer to the fire altar. This effect, the study says, was more pronounced in the case of Bengal gram with growth about 2,000 times faster than in other places. According to Nampoori, sound is a vibration and continuous positive vibrations through chanting, accelerates the process of germination. “The findings would not only help dispel superstitious notions associated with Vedic rituals but also help in continuation of such tradition for the betterment of nature and the environment,” says Nampoori. He added that further research on the phenomenon were on which could prove that some bio—amplifier generated in the atmosphere because of the ritual, had a selective effect on Bengal gram. The study focused on counting bacterial colonies at three locations — within the yagnashala, 500 metres and 1.5 kilometres from the yagnasala. Microbial analysis made before, during and four days after the yagna revealed that the air in the vicinity of the yagnashala was pure and had very low count of microbe colonies.
The research team also found that microbial activities in the soil and water around the yagnashala were remarkably less compared to normal ground. The “Athirathram” ritual which literally means “building up of the fireplace and performed overnight” and usually held to propagate universal peace and harmony, was first documented 35 years ago by US—based Indologist Frits Staal. Staal, currently Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley had in 1975 organised and recorded the ritual in detail with the help of grants and donations from the Universities of Havard, Berkely and Finland”s Helsinki University. The research team conducted tests near the fire altars of the 1918 and 1956 Athirathram, still preserved in the backyards of Namboothiri homes, reveal that the bricks continue to be free of microbial presence. “It’s an indication that the effect of the ritual is long—lasting. Studies are on to find out if other positive changes on the atmosphere are transitional or permanent,” say researchers. An analysis conducted on the dimensions of temperature from the flames of the pravargya by Prof A K Saxena, head of photonics division, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, found that the fire ball that formed during the ritual had a particular wavelength with an unusually high intensity similar to what is observed in typical laser beams at about 3,870 degree centigrade.
It may be possible to have stimulated emission at this wavelength (700 nm) and gain from plasma recombination. It needs to be studied further, he says. The members of the team of scientists’ team at the Panjal Athirathram 2011 included experts from various disciplines and included Dr Rajalakshmy Subrahmanian (Cusat), Dr Parvathi Menon (M G College, Thiruvanathapuram), Dr Maya R Nair (Pattambi Government College), Prof Saxena ( Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore) and Prof. Rao (Andhra University). The scientific team members were supported by Zarina (Research Scholar, CUSAT), Ramkumar (Biotechnologist), Asulabha (Biotechnologist) and a number of postgraduate, graduate and school students.