You would have seen a Brahmin Pundit with head-gear and garland, draped in saffron clothes and accompanied by devotional singers walking through the neighbourhood. People come out, prostrate before the group and offer money and rice. The saintly person leading the Unjravrithi conveys his blessings to the family and moves on. This is Unjavrithi, the practice of living humbly with the offering given by devotees.
Of course, these days Unjavrithi cannot be adopted as a means of livelihood, as it was for some Brahmins many years before. But Unjavrithi gives us a message. The true sign of a devotee is not seeking something but denying himself. Rather than desiring something which leads him to the world of myth, he prefers to deny everything which leads him to the path of God. Only when he renounces the demands of his body and the desires of his mind and subsists mainly on what is offered by others, he qualifies himself to reach and realize God. Unjavrithi is the practice of denying necessities and subsisting from whatever is offered by neighbours. It shows the humbleness and humility of the person, who ever lives in peace and contentment. When Rama was leaving for forest with Sita and Laxman, Kausalya asked him: “Oh Rama, having used to a luxurious palace life, how can you adjust yourself with a life in forest where nothing will be available?” Rama said: ”He who is desire-less, who is contended and surrenders, lives a life of happiness and fulfilment wherever he is. We have known that even saint Thyagaraja followed the practice of Unjavrithi. Sadguru Swamigal, the doyen of Namasankeerthan, said: “When you go out and accept whatever is offered, your pride or ego goes, the desire for possession goes and even the sense of possessor goes.”
As already said, the practice of Unjavrithi kindles the qualities of humbleness and humility. It stresses the importance of renunciation and dispassion. Kanchi Paramacharya was a living testimony of simplicity. The only possession which Bhagavan Sri Ramana had was the loin cloth and a staff (dhanda) and yet he was universally acclaimed for his impersonality, for his total detachment and the distance he maintained from the world. Devotees of Ramana Bhagavan also used to go on Unjavrithi and quite often Bhagavan also used to join them. Once, the devotees told Bhagavan that while going on Unjravrithi, they have been rendering the same Namavali song and they requested Bhagavan to give them a good song which they could recite during the Unjavrithi. Bhagavan obliged and gave them the “Aksharamanamalai”, the song which turned out to be the most popular song recited at almost all the temples in Tamil Nadu during Pradosham. We have a rich tradition of Namasankeerthan and it is an excellent sign that during Radha Kalyanam or during Namasankeerthan festivals, the practice of Unjavrithi is followed by Bhagavathars.