Today while watching Swamiji’s discourses, I noticed Sri Hari’s murti behind and something caught my attention.
A few days ago I wrote about the process of ‘Bharanyasam’ that I underwent, which is surrendering to Lord Vishnu, or saranagati.
But, that’s not the first step. In the Vaishnavite tradition, there is also a process called ‘Samasrayanam‘, which is usually done before the aforesaid. 

When I was younger, my father did mention about this too. As a child and the rebel I was, I was quite disinclined towards the concept. In the process, Step 1 is: Thapaha – embossing the impression of Vishnu’s sudarshana discus (shankha) on the right shoulder of the initiate and of Vishnu’s panchajanya conch (chakra) on the left shoulder of the initiate – using an ember-heated silver seal;

Quoting a description from a Quora post –
“During this rite, the acharya initiates a person, irrespective of sex, caste, social status etc., as his or her sishya. It is a commitment from the disciple that he or she will live as per the wishes of the acharya. By wearing the symbols of the Lord, one gets released from the bondage of births, and the servants of Yama stay away from that person. Samashrayanam is also a basic requirement for many things, such as worship of Saligrama, participation in ceremonies of forefathers, learning a few scriptures, to name a few. Samashrayanam is also very important part of Saranagathi. It is also a ritual through which one is initiated into the Sri Vaishnava Sampradayam.”

The thought of intentionally getting burning rods stamp something on my body sounded gruesome to me. “Why would God in all his kindness and compassion that he bestows us want his children to undergo such pain? It’s stupid and some idiotic human created ideas that I won’t subscribe to !”
And years later, I willingly did it. Why? Because I had no reason not to. If I want to still justify it to my logical mind, here are some justifications:
1. It is told by my father, he cannot be so badly wrong. 2. People told “The mantras will do wonder, God protects and you won’t feel any pain”, I was curious to see this work for me. (not kidding) and 3. I saw many older men and women get it done, I didn’t want the FOMO and hence.

Step 2 is Naama : The person is christened as a “Servant of Sri Ramanuja” (Ramanuja Daasan/Daasi) and given a dasya nama.
Step 3 is Pundra – The Urdhva Pundra, or Naamam is worn at 12 different places on the body for male and on the forehead for female.
Step 4 is Japa – The Thirumantra, Dvaya Mantra and Charama Shloka are learnt from the Acharya.
And 5 is Ijya – The right method of worship is taught (ie Thiruvaradhanam).

What really happened – When I was there, in my madisar ready for the process, people around looked at me with wonder, some asked me if I was anxious or nervous, but to be honest, I wasn’t. I was ready for this. I am unable to back any reasons from where the confidence and faith came but I could feel it from within. I believe, the mantras/ vows do make that happen. When the thapaha I did feel my skin burn, but it didn’t hurt and there was no suffering from it atleast immediately. The rest of the process followed. There was one statement which required one to say their name ‘xxxx’ followed by “dasyami”. When the acharya asked for my name, ‘Aparna’ I said.
“Is it Aparna, isn’t that another name for Parvati?” he wondered glancing at other Swamis around.
“Did you not get anyone else?” He joked. “How can I take Parvati’s name here (in a sabha full of Vishnu avatars and Vaishnavites)! Do you have any other name?” I mentioned the 2 other names I am called at home and we went with one of them.
When I came out people congratulated me, some were really happy, I could say it from their faces. “This must be for real”, I thought.

Back home, I told about it to my mother and grandmother, they were the happiest and proud. Especially my grandmother, she felt really happy about it. I came home and checked them out, and I was impressed at what I had on my shoulders. “Wow! That looks like a tattooo!”, my sister was bewildered. Fun aside, I realized what this has brought me along. An ever prevailing sense of devotion and service, a sense of surrender. 

And today I feel happy and grateful for being able to do this, after all, even Shri Hari has a Shankh in his right and Chakra in his left hand.
Jai Shri Hari !