image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iyer
The following are the festivals generally celebrated in homes:
1. Tamil New year day
2. Aadi 1st.- Dakshinayana Punyakalam
3. Aadi 18th - Padinettam Perukku
4. Navaratri – all nine days are celebrated;
6. Karthikai Deepam
7. Ardra Darsanam
8. Bhogi (day previous to Makara Sankranti)
10. Kaaradaiyan Nonbu
On these festival days, Payasam and Vada are part of the Naivedyam.
The following are the Poojas generally performed in homes:
1. Varalakshmi Pooja (for families who traditionally perform)
2. Vinayaka Chaturthi
3. Krishna Janmashtami
4. Saraswathi Pooja & Vijaya Dasami
5. Makara Sankranti
6. Sri Ramanavami
Consult a book on Pooja Vidhanam and perform Poojas. Do not fail to perform Poojas because Purohit is not available. Learn the simple requirements and perform with the help of book. It is necessary for the elders to show the practice of performance of poojas, fast etc. to the younger generation. As regards Vratam/ upavasam (fasting), one should not eat anything on Ekadasi day, and on the previous night. However you may take ‘Palaharam’ (snacks) once during the day and fruits and milk in the night. Upavasam on other occasions like Sankashti, Krittika, Shashti, Pradosham, Maha Sivaratri, Sri Ramanavami, Krishna Janmashtami etc. is optional.
Aasoucham (Period of Impurity)
1. When a male child is born, the parents, grandparents et al are subject to Aasoucham (impurity) for 10 days. During Aasoucham period, all Deva, Pitru activities come to a stop. Sandhyavandanam should however be performed. This shows how important Sandhya-vandanam is. In the case of female child, parents of child’s mother do not have Aasoucham. Ascertain details from Satragnas or consult Dharma Sastram book and observe.
2. When a death occurs in the family, Aasoucham is caught by relatives. The time period is variable depending on the relationship. It varies from Sadyah Soucham (Aasoucham goes after bath), one day, 1½ days, three days and ten days. Ascertain details from Satragnas or consult Dharma Sastram book and observe. Again, as before, during Aasoucham period, all Deva, Pitru activities come to a stop. Sandhyavandanam should however be performed.
3. Certain restrictions should be strictly observed during Aasoucham period. Those who do not have Aasoucham should not touch one who has Aasoucham. They should not eat food in their home or food touched by him or her. If they visit his home during that period, they become pure only after taking bath. When Aasoucham ends, during bath, all clothes touched during Aasoucham period should be wetted in water and dried and used. Strictly speaking, for purity, one should perform Punyahavachanam. If not, sprinkle water with a darbha on all materials in the house, chanting the following mantras chanted during Sandhyavandanam.
आपो हि ष्टा मयोभुवः ता न ऊर्जे दधातन ।
महे रणाय चक्षसे यो वः शिवतमो रसः ।
तस्य भाजयते हनः ।
उशतीरिव मातरः तस्मा अरंगमाम वः ।
यस्य क्षयाय जिन्वथ ।
आपो जनयता च नः ।
ॐ भूर्भुवस्सुवः ।
Apara kriyas should be performed adhering as strictly as possibly to injunctions of Sastras. Three major deviations that have crept in these days are very unfortunate. If you love the departed soul, you should not commit these serious errors.
1. Dead body is kept in morgue or embalmed till a relative comes from a faraway place. The soul suffers very much if apara kriyas are delayed after death. Cremation should be done within 10 hours in case of death in daytime and 3½ hours in case of night. The hunger and thirst suffered by the soul are unbearable. Hence the karta or any relative close to him as per hierarchy in Sastras should perform the cremation without waiting for anyone. The sentiment of love in seeing the dead body should be kept aside in consideration of the suffering of the departed soul.
2. After cremation is done, the daily rituals (Nityaveethi) are postponed for no reason. Many times these rituals are started on the ninth day. This again results in avoidable, unbearable suffering of hunger and thirst of the departed soul. Is it correct to keep your parents hungry and thirsty for eight days, articularly when their hunger and thirst are at peak level and then feed them all the food of nine days together? The reason for postponement is sometimes given as non-availability of a suitable place for Paashaana sthapanam. No such excuse should be offered. Sastras require that the Nithyaveethi rituals should commence on the same day after cremation, on reaching home. This has nothing to do with Sanchayanam, which can be done the next day.
3. During the period of one year after death, there was a practice in earlier times of performing Nitya (daily) sraadham. There are however 15 Ekoddishta sradhas, which are performed during the year and they are: Unamasikam on any day in the period of 3 days from 27th day; Traipakshikam in the 5 day period from 40th day; Unashanmasikam in the 10 day period from 170th day; Unabdikam in the 15 day period from 340th day; eleven Anumasikams on the monthly tithi in the11 months. ‘Sodakumbha’ sraadham is performed on the day previous to these sraadhas. It is currently the practice to ‘attract’ (advance) the above 11 Anumasika sraadhas and perform all of them on eleventh day itself through gift of rice and vegetables (Aama sradham). In case the karta passes away during the year, the Ekoddishta sradhas would remain incomplete, leading to failure of release of jiva from Preta into Pitru. Further this kind of advance action also helps in celebrating any marriages etc. in the family during the year if necessary. The 15 Ekoddishta sradhas are however also to be performed on the appointed days during the year for timely assistance to the jiva during his long and difficult journey from here to Yamaloka, which takes one year and during which he suffers from severe hunger and thirst. Presently some people ignore or club some of these sraadhas. That is very harsh for the departed jiva and should never be done.
This article is only for purpose of general information and reference. No exhaustive details are given here. You must approach your Purohit and discuss and perform karmas diligently and carefully. Remember that doing the basic karmas correctly is more important than learning new verses, tirthatanam etc. Adi Sankara makes it abundantly clear that by proper performance of Vedic karmas, the mind gradually gets purified; by surrendering the fruits of karmas to Bhagavan, bhakti flowers; in due course Gnana is attained by God’s grace.