Pic: Dried Darbha Darbhai is a Tamil word, born of Darbha, in Sanskrit QUOTE: Darbhai, also called kusa, is a grass leaf and its role and place in a Brahmin’s life is supreme. Darbhai is considered as a form of wealth and can cleanse us of our sins as it has the power to purify. We must have at least basic knowledge about this holy grass leaf, and that is the purpose of this monograph. Pic: Darbha-Bush There are several types of grass that can be used such as darbhai, viswamitra, kusa, munja, sara, doorva etc. The botanical name of darbhai is Poa Cynosuroides. Even modern researchers speak of its special characteristics and the power of its vibrations. Tradition avers that Brahma resides at the roots of kusa, Kesava in the centre and Sankara in the tip; and other Gods in the four directions – as in the case of a peepal tree. Great sages like Harita, Markandeya, Atri, Kausika, Vyasa, Saataatapa, Yajnavalkya, Asvalayana and Apasthamba have eulogized darbhai. Though there are minor variations in the use of darbhai in deva karmas and pitru karmas, there is unison among all the Rishis in underscoring the place of darbhai in all rites and rituals. The Vedas too speak specifically of the value of darbhai: the acchidra section of Krisnayajurveda Braahmama is a case in point. Reference to darbhai is found in granthas, the ancient texts of Sara-samuchaya, Smrti-saram, Smrti-ratnam, Smrti chintamani, Smrti-bbaskara and Vishnupurana. There are many Puranic stories woven around darbhai. The Mahabharata contains the story of Garuda, the mythic bird and Vishnu’s vehicle bringing ambrosia and the serpents getting their tongue split lengthwise when they licked the darbha leaf on which a few drops of the ambrosia fell. The story of Rama throwing darbhai at Jayanta in the shape of a crow can be found in the Ramayana. In the story of Mahabali Vamana clears the spout of pitcher with a leaf of darbhai. How to wear the ‘Pavitram’ Pic : On ring finger. The darbhai is to be worn on the ring finger of the right hand, in a circular formation, prior to starting any religious rite like homa, dana, yaga-yagna – in fact any deva or pitru karma. This ubiquitous adornment on the finger of the karta of any ritual is called a ‘pavitram’, and it is necessarily made of darbhai. There is an opinion that one can permanently have the ‘pavitram’ on. Perhaps an extension of this thinking is the idea ascribed to sages like Katyayana and Harita that a pavitram could be made of gold and worn all the time. Please note that a pavitram made of gold cannot substitute a darbhai. When a karma starts one has to necessarily have a darbhai pavitram on, even if one is already wearing a swarna pavitram. Any reference to pavitram means only darbhai. Incidentally, when a swarna pavitram is worn on the ring finger, a ring called tarjani made of silver is to be simultaneously worn on the index finger. And only the eldest son can wear the tarjani (but not when his father is alive). Generally one does not prepare darbhai for oneself. It is either received from the family Purohit (Sastrigal) or a properly qualified elderly person. Of course if the pavitram is not available from these sources one can prepare it oneself. The darbhai has to be fresh and prepared just before the start of a ritual – it should not be stocked.