TRIPUNITHURA: Nellikkaattu Maamannu Narayanan Namboothiri, the most senior Sama Veda scholar in Kerala, turns 98 on Tuesday.Incidentally, a day before his birthday an Athirathram began at his native village of Panjal. Against the backdrop of the Athirathram, Narayanan Namboothiri recalls the Athirathrams which were performed at his ancestral house in Panjal.”The most senior members of three successive generations in my family attended Saagnichithrya Athiraathra Somayaga and thus they attained the special title of Akkithiripad which is conferred only on those who perform the Saagnichithrya Athiraathra Somayaga, says Narayanan Namboothiri.An Athirathram was held at Panjal in 1975 under the leadership of Prof Frits Stall, professor of Sanskrit and Philosophy, University of California Berkeley.In Kerala there are only a few Namboothiri families which follow the melodious Sama Veda, which is considered as the source of Indian music, Namboothiri said.”After Upanayanam we start learning chanting of the melodious hymns from Sama Veda. After Sama Veda, we will shift to Chandra Syamam, Jaimineeyopanishath and Easavasyopanishad. Even at the age of 12 we can chant the melodious hymns from Sama Veda,” he said.During Namboothiri’s Veda studies in the early half of last century, E M Sankaran Namboodiripad was his senior at the Vedic school. In those days the learning system itself was entirely different.”Sagnichithya Athirathra Somayagam is rare and I still remember two Athirathrams attended by my elder brother Mamannu Nellikkaatuu Neelakantan Akkithiripad. In my ancestral home, Mamannu Nelliikkaattu Mana at Panjal, we still keep the Chithi where the Athirathram was held in 1975,” he said.These structures for performing the homams are termed as Agnichayanas and keeping these intact is considered as auspicious.Sagnichithya Athirathram is the combination of two major Vedic performances, Maha Agnichayanam and Athirathra Somayagam.The dedication shown by Frits Stall to know the Vedic knowledge is quite unbelievable, Namboothiri says. Stall had spent nearly a year at my ancestral house along with the elder brother to feel the indescribable ecstasy obtained from Sama Sangeetham, he recalled.Frits Stall is also attending the Athirathram which began at Panjal on Monday. Stall, who was in the forefront as an organiser in the Sagnichithya Athirathram in 1975, had written a book Agni based on his Vedic experience.Now the Vedic Village of Panjal, is again witnessing another Athirathram. In the Athirathrams held in 1975 at Panjal and in 1990 at Kundur, the scientists conducted studies about the changes taking place in nature as a result of the Athirathram. Scientists such as Rose Mary Steele had conducted research oriental studies with the help of Kirlian camera to sketch the aura formed around the Yajamanan and the Yajamana Pathni. Because of old age, forgetfulness is catching up on Narayanan Namboothiri. Still if any Vedic scholar asked him any doubt regarding the chanting of excerpts from Saamam, he spontaneously starts the chanting and clears all their doubts. Recently two Sama Veda scholars Thottam Krishnan Namboothiri and Thottam Sivakaran Namboothiri visited his house at Tripunithura and asked him to chant a few selected verses from the Saama Vedam.In no time, Narayanan Namoboothiri attained the dynamism of a young Veda student and started chanting the wanted verses from the Saama Vedam with the right intonation and that too in the pristine traditional style.Namboothiri regularly chants the verses from Sama Vedam even now and always whispers the name of his beloved family deity, Lord Ayyappa. Often Namboothiri calls his daughter Sathya Thampuran before chanting the verses from the Sama Vedam aloud.