Monday, December 31, 2007

NammAzhvaar Moksham in Srirangam

A festival to honour 'Vedham Tamil Seitha Maaran'
Araiyars recite the last of the Paasurams of the Naalayira Divya Prabhandham at the 1000 Pillar Mandapam in Srirangam just after 6am on 30th December and in a dramatic scene, NammAzhvaar falls at the feet of NamPerumal and attains Moksham

“Avaa Aara Choozh Ariyai Ayanai Aranai Alatri ….”


NAMPERUMAL AT THIRUMAA MANI MANDAPAM
Every Ekadesi has a significance. One saw the significance of Kaisika Ekadesi in a story last month (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/11/108-divya-desam-kaisika-ekadesi.html ). Vaikunda Ekadesi, which follows the Kaisika Ekadesi, is quite significant as well.

In centuries gone by, Vedas used to be recited very early in the morning. Belief was that 3am-430am in Margazhi was the most auspicious time to learn and recite the Vedas and Prabhandham and thus one benefits the most when one reads the Vedas and Prabhandham at this time.

This is the reason one sees a lot of devotional ‘Prabhandham’ action through the day and night at Vaishnavite temples in Tamil Nadu, the prominent among them being Srirangam, the Koil among Divya Desams. The festival, which runs for just over 20 days, culminates in NammAzhvaar Moksham, on the last day of Ira Pathu.

During this period, the entire 4000 verses of the Prabhandham are recited.

Vaikunda Ekadesi
Legend has it that, to protect the Devas, Vishnu once fought a long battle with an Asura. Shakti, Vishnu's female energy, emerged out of his body and defeated the Asura. A pleased Vishnu named this maiden as Ekadesi and granted her the power to relieve people from the greatest sins, if they observed a fast on this day, and also to help them reach Vaikundam. Vaikunda Ekadesi is a very holy day and is spent fasting, praying and in meditation. Devotees look upon this austerity as a means to succeed in their spiritual endeavour. It is believed that there is no fasting that is even comparable to the Vaikunda Ekadasi fasting, such is its power.

Lord NamPerumal, in all his glory and resplendence, enters the Parama Padha Vaasal (the Gateway to Salvation) early in the morning on the Vaikunda Ekadesi day. Devotees pass through this symbolic Gateway to Heaven or Vaikundam, the abode of Lord Vishnu, to obtain his blessings and grace and to find their way to heaven.

The early days- How it all started
In the very early days, prior to the time of the Azhvaars, there used to be recital of the Vedas before the Lord for 10 days from Vaikunta Ekadesi and this was how it all started.

‘Vedham Tamil Seitha Maaran’- The beginning of a 10 day festival
NammAzhvaar, the greatest among the Azhvaars, was primarily responsible for Naalaayira Divya Prabhandham( it was from NammAzhvaar that Natha Muni picked up the entire content of the Prabhandham- Natha Muni was directed by Aaraavamuthan of Thiru Kudanthai (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/10/108-divya-desam-thiru-kudanthai.html ) and hence he is also referred to as ‘Vedham Tamil Seitha Maaran’. When one says just Azhvaar, it means the reference is to Nammazhvaar, such is the reverence for him.


As a mark of honouring the Azhvaar and his contribution to the Prabhandham, Lord NamPerumal himself comes to meet him every year at the 1000 Pillar Mandapam on each of the 10 days following the Vaikunta Ekadesi and listens to Araiyars singing and enacting the Azhvaar praise - 100 Paasurams a day from ThiruvaaiMozhi – for 10 days beginning Vaikunda Ekadesi for a total of 1000 Paasurams during the 10 day Ira Pathu period. All the Azhvaars are also present on the occasion as well as Ramanuja and ThiruKachi Nambi. Thus started the 10day Divya Prabhandham festival.

Madurakavi Azhvaar’s praise of NammAzhvaar
“Kanninun Sirutha Ambinaal
Katunappa Panniya Perumaayan
Ennapanil Nannith Then Kurugur Nambi Yenrakkaal
Anniku Amuthoorum Enraavukey”
(Madura Kavi’s praise of his Lord, NammAzhvaar….The wonder child -My Lord -was held on a leash of rope. And just uttering Kurugur Nambi’s (NammAzhvaar) name is like bringing nectar to oneself)

Pagal Pathu (first 10 days) was added later to recognize Thirumangai Azhvaar’s contribution

Last of the Azhvaars, Thirumangai Azhvaar, also made a significant contribution to the Prabhandham. His biggest contribution to the Srirangam temple was his effort in building the huge fort like walls around the prakaarams. It was also Thirumangai Azhvaar who wanted this to be a Tamil Divya Prabhandham festival(as against just the Vedic recital that existed before his time) and requested the Lord to make this so. And the Lord is said to have agreed.

Nathamuni wanted to create a festival for ThiruMangai Azhvaar for his contribution to the Prabhandham. Thus started the 10 day Pagal Pathu festival (the opening 10 days of the festival) which precedes the Vaikunta Ekadesi. At Srirangam, Lord NamPerumal listens to the 1st 2000 Paasurams at Arjuna Mandapam during the first 10 days.

A specialist Araiyar
Beginning the Amaavasai day in December, the 4000 Divya Prabandham is enacted by the Araiyars (King of Music), the descendents of Natha Muni, who is believed to have introduced the Araiyar Sevai.

Lord Ranganatha himself is said to have given the Araiyars the right to perform the unique musical chanting at Divya Desams and presented them with the cone-like cap, two cymbals and the sacred garland (which they wear around their neck when they perform). Araiyars have been bestowed the special right to start as well as end the Paasurams in Vaishnavite temples through their special song and dance sequence.

The Araiyars first recite the Paasuram, then explain its inner meaning and finally perform the Abhinayam, a unique art/dance performance with their hands and legs explaining the Paasurams with special musical effect.

In centuries gone by, there used to be an Araiyar who was an expert in Paasurams relating to a particular Divya Desam. During these 20 days, different Araiyars would enact Paasurams according to their expertise on the relevant Divya Desams.

NammAzhvaar Moksham
NammAzhvaar didn’t want ‘life’ anymore. He asked for Moksham on the very first day. NammAzhvaar’s desire to attain Moksham is said to have been as big as the sky. Lord, however, wanted to make a positive change to the world through his Paasurams and wanted everyone to absorb the beautiful Paasurams of NammAzhvaar. As the Lord decided that the world should benefit from Nammazhvaar’s Paasurams, he delayed the Moksham of NammAzhvaar till the very last day.

Finally after listening to the beautiful Paasurams of ThiruvaaiMozhi, Lord gives in. The Lord was so taken in by the Paasurams that it is said Lord wanted to take NammAzhvaar to Vaikuntam in the same form. “It was this body that rendered the beautiful Prabhandham to the world and hence I want to take you with me with your body itself” was Lord’s view.

Sunday 30th December 2007 - 1.30am
6 Araiyars(Ramanuja, Sampath, Varadarajan, Narayanan, Rangarajan and Devarajan) arrived at the 1000 Pillar Mandapam at 1.30am and for the next hour and a half they kept the devotees, who had stayed awake late night to witness the Araiyar Sevai, captivated with the enactment of the final 100 paasurams of NammAzhvaar’s ThiruvaaiMozhi.

Araiyars leave - well past 3am in the morning

By the time they had presented this song, dance enactment with the Abhinayam of 90 of the last 100 Paasurams of the Prabhandham, it was 3am. It was once again a tireless effort by the Araiyars. As long as these Araiyars of Srirangam continue to show the passion that they displayed on this night, one can be assured that the Araiyar Sevai, at least in Srirangam, is here to stay for another generation and more.

They went back well after the clock had struck 3 only to return in a couple of hours for the balance 10 paasurams and conclusion of Thiruvaaimozhi.

6am – Back at Thirumaamani Mandapam

NammAzhvaar being brought to Thirumaa Manni Mandapam
At 6am, the 6 Araiyars were back at it again and along with NammAzhvaar make their way to the Thirumaamani Mandapam. With NammAzhvaar placed in front of NamPerumal, the Araiyars begin the recital of the balance 10 paasurams (they had presented 90 of the last 100 paasurams of ThiruvaaiMozhi till 3am earlier that morning).

And as the Araiyars recited the last of Paasurams of Naalaayira Divya Prabhandham, NammAzhvaar falls on the feet of NamPerumal and attains Moksham, quite a dramatic scene. Subsequent to this, NammAzhvaar adorns the garland worn by NamPerumal himself.

The Last verse of Prabhandham
“Avaa Aara Choozh Ariyai Ayanai Aranai Alatri
Avaa Atru Veedu Petra Kurugur Sadagopan Sonna
Avaail Anthaathigalaal Ivai Aayiram Mudintha
Avaail Anthaathi Ippathu Arinthaar Piranthaar Uyarnthey”

(The 1000 songs on the Lord is by Thiru Kurugur Sadagopan who found his liberation(Moksham). Those who master these verses will attain Moksham too)

Contact: Badri Bhattar@ 99943 81930

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Thiru Koodal Azhagar Madurai

Koodal Azhagar is credited with the origination of Thiru Pallandu which constitutes the first 12 verses of the Divya Prabhandham

A thrilled PeriAzhvaar sang ‘Pallandu’ on seeing Koodal Azhagar

The Koodal Azhagar Divya Desam is situated in the heart of Madurai, a km South East of Madurai Junction and half a km South West of Meenakshi Amman Temple.

Three Tier Temple Structure-Lord in all three postures

Lord is seen in all three postures at this Divya Desam. At the base Tier is Koodal Azhagar in a grand sitting posture under the Serpent Lord Aadhiseshan. Climbing about 20 steps on to Tier 1, one sees the Lord in a Sleeping Posture. And another 10 steps above, in Tier 2, is Lord Surya Narayanan in a standing posture.

Temple Tower depicting the Great Epics

In the temple tower at the entrance, one sees the story of the Ramayana and Mahabaratha depicted through sculpture in different tiers of the tower. These sculptures can be closely seen from Tier 1 of the temple and are not to be missed.

PeriAzhvaar’s praise
Pandya king Pururavan contributed a lot for the Koodal Lord. His grandson conquered the North and came back prompting PeriAzhvaar to sing:

பருபதுக்கு கயல் பொறித்த பாண்ட்யர் குலபதிபோல்
திரு பொழிந்த சேவடி
என் சென்னியின் மேல் பொறித்தாய் மறு போசிதாய்
என்றென்றும் வாசகமே
உரு பொழிந்த நாவிநேனை உணகுரிதாகினையே


Later, another Pandya king Vallabadevan wanted to know the Lord with the power to show the way to Paramapatham, the heavenly abode. The King hung a Golden Parrot with the announcement that the parrot would automatically fall, once someone informs him of the right Lord to Paramapatham. Several came and went back without success.

It is believed that the Koodal Lord appeared in the dreams of Vallabadevan’s priest Selvanambi and suggested the name of PeriAzhvaar of Srivilliputhur. Accordingly, PeriAzhvaar was brought to the court of the Pandya King in Madurai. With several examples from vedic scriptures as well as historical references, PeriAzhvaar showcased to the Pandya King that Lord Vishnu was the Lord who could take one to the heavenly abode. And to every one’s surprise the parrot fell down.

The Azhvaar taken on a Street procession in Koodal
A delighted Pandya king praised PeriAzhvaar and took him on an elephant procession through the streets of Madurai. Legend has it that Koodal Azhagar himself came to see this sight on his Garuda Vaahanam.
பாண்ட்யன் கொண்டாட பட்டர் பிரான் வந்தான் என்று …….”

PeriAzhvaar’s Thiru Pallaandu
Delighted at the sight of the Koodal Lord, PeriAzhvaar showered praises with his Pallaandu. Hence, Koodal Azhagar is credited with origination of ThiruPallaandu, which now has come to be sung as the first 12 songs of the Divya Prabhandham. Being the place where PeriAzhvaar sang the now famous Pallaandu, this place is considered equivalent to Paramapatham.

The Pandya Symbol
Pandya king Sathya Varadan undertook penance before the Koodal Lord, who gave him darshan inside a sacred tumbler, as a fish. This is stated to be the reason for the Pandyas to have ‘Fish’ as their symbol in their flags.

Vaigai River in Madurai

At Sathya Logam, Brahmma washed the legs of Lord Vishnu, after his Trivikrama Avataaram, the sacred water drops of which fell on Madurai. These sacred drops spread as two rivers, Vaigai and Krithumala. Koodal Azhagar temple is on the banks of Kruthumala river.

The drawings of all the 108 divya desams can be seen on the walls of the prakaram.

This is the only divya desam with a Navagraha Sannidhi

Festivals 
Vaikasi Brahmotsavam
Maasi Theppotsavam
Panguni Uthiram

Quick Facts

Moolavar    : Koodal Azhagar Sitting Posture East Facing
Goddess     : Madhura Valli Thaayar
Paasurams : Thirumangai Azhvaar(1), ThiruMazhisaiAzhvaar (1)

Temple time : 6am –12noon and 4pm-9pm
Priest        :  Ramakrishnan Bhattar @ 97890 20344 / Raja Bhattar @ 94420 28447

Place to Stay :
College House(Rs. 300-500), Hotel Supreme/Madurai Residency(Rs. 1000+)
Madurai Junction Retiring Room is the recommended place to stay( Rs. 250-Rs.600)


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thiru Thangal Ninra Narayanan Temple

Only Divya Desam with 11 idols inside the Sanctum
‘Garuda seen together with his enemy Aadhiseshan’ is a unique feature at this Divya Desam


4 kms east of the cracker town of Sivakasi on the Srivilliputhur - Virudhanagar road, is the Ninra Narayana Divya Desam in Thiru Thangal. The Lord is seen in a standing posture atop a hill (the Thangal Malai). At the Western entrance is the Lord Ranganatha Sannidhi from where one has to climb around 15 steps to reach the Ninra Narayanan Sannidhi.

The temple, which has been renovated in the last few years thanks to help from local industrialists, now wears a new, bright look inside. The Andaal Divya Desam at Srivilliputhur is about 25Kms(West) from here.

A war of words between the 3 Devis
A fight arose between the three Devis- Sri Devi, BhooDevi and NeelaDevi- as to who was the senior most among the three and the favourite of the Lord. To prove her status, SriDevi came down to this place and undertook penance near the ‘Thangala hills’. Pleased with her prayers, Lord Vishnu appeared before her and acknowledged that she was his favourite. In memory of this event, this place came to be called ‘Sri’ Puram. It is believed that Bhoodevi and Neeladevi agreed with this verdict of the Lord and decided to stay here at this place.

Aadi Trip to SriVilliputhur

Every year, on the 5th day of the Tamil month of Aadi, ThiruThangal Appan goes to SriVilliputhur, about 25kms from here. PeriyaAzhvaar praises the Lord in the morning, while Garuda Sevai is a special feature in the evening. The next morning, 6th day of Aadi, ThiruThangal Appan takes flowers from Andaal, another unique occurrence.

11 idols inside the sanctum
Inside the sanctum, one can see as many as 11 idols, the only Divya Desam to have these many idols within the sanctum. The idols are: Deiveeka Vasudevan, Sridevi, Neeladevi, Bhoomadevi, Brigu Rishi, Markandeya Rishi, Garuda, Arunan (Suryan’s Charioteer), Anirudhan, Ushai and Jambavathi (only temple to have an image of Jambavathi).

Garuda and Serpent Lord Aadhiseshan
A unique feature at this Divya Desam is that Garuda is seen along with his traditional enemy, ‘The Serpent Lord Aadhiseshan’. Garuda is also seen adorned with jewellery.

Krishna’s grandson wedding at ThiruThangal
Krishna’s grandson Anirudhan got married at this place to Baanaasuran’s daughter Ushai. It is believed that Deiveega Vasudevan came down to attend this wedding.

A fight between Sacred Banyan tree and Aadhiseshan
Once a fight arose between a sacred Banyan tree and Aadhiseshan as to who was more powerful. They went up to Brahmma who decided in favour of Aadhiseshan as it was on the Serpant Lord that Lord Vishnu slept. Unhappy with Brahmma’s decision, the sacred tree undertook penance seeking Vishnu’s blessings. The Lord asked him to go to ThiruThangal and take the form of a hill. Fulfilling his wish, the Lord would come there to the hill and accept SriDevi, who was undertaking penance, at the foot of the hill.

Festival 
Aani Brahmotsavam
Aavani Pavitrotsavam
Puratasi Garuda Sevai
Chitra Pournami- 3 day procession

Quick Facts

Moolavar    : Ninra Naarayanan East Facing Standing Posture
Goddess     : Shengamalar Thaayar
Utsavar      : ThiruThangal Appan
Paasurams  : BhoothathAzhvaar (1), ThirumangaiAzhvaar(4)
Temple time: 6am-12noon and 4pm-8pm
Priest          : Anantha Sayana Bhattar @ 94435 70765

How to reach
Bus : Frequent buses fromVirudanagar (25kms), Sivakasi and Srivilliputhur. Mini buses ply every 5-10 mts between Sivakasi and ThiruThangal. Train: Chennai Shengottai Podhigai Express stops at ThiruThangal (615am arrival)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thiru Mogur Kaalamegha Perumal

Mohana Kshetram -Lord Vishnu takes the form of Mohini
One’s difficulties will go away if one goes around the Thiru Mogur Lord just once

 Located 10kms East of Madurai off the Madurai Melur Road is the Kaalamegha Perumal Divya Desam  in Thiru Mogur, . In centuries gone by, this place was identified as being 1 Yojana from ThiruMaalirinCholai (to be seen later in this series) and South of the Elephant rock (Astha Giri).

The huge Astha Giri can be seen even today. It is worth stopping on the highway (Madurai-Madras route) to see this elephant shaped rock that runs quite a distance.

Lord Vishnu takes the form of ‘Mohini’
Once Devas wanted the boon of ‘immortality’. Seeing Vishnu grant Devas their wish, the Asuras too wanted a share of the nectar, leading to a fight between the two. To protect the devas, Lord Vishnu took the form of a ‘Mohini’. Lost in the beauty of the ‘Mohini’, the asuras forgot about the nectar. And thus Vishnu successfully shared the nectar exclusively with the Devas.

Lord Vishnu helped recover the Vedic Scriptures from two Asuras - Madhu and Kaidapan who had stolen it from Brahmma. It was at this place that Brahmma performed daily poojas, directed at Lord Vishnu, as a gesture to thank the Lord for fighting the Asuras and securing back the Vedic Scriptures.

It is said that Brahmma wanted to see the Lord as ‘Narayana’ and not in his Mohini form. Hence, it is said that Lord Vishnu appeared before Brahmma at this place as Kaalamegha Perumal.

A unique sleeping posture - Prarthana Sayanam
At this temple, one can also find the Lord in a Sleeping posture and quite a unique one at that. This posture of the Lord is called ‘Prarthana Sayanam’, where Sridevi and Bhoodevi are seen praying, at the feet of the sleeping Lord. The sleeping Lord is said to be one before he took the Mohini Avataaram.
(The other sleeping postures are Veera Sayanam, Anantha Sayanam, Baala Sayanam, Uthaana Sayanam, Sthala Sayanam, Bogha Sayanam)

“Pallikonda Paambanai Thirumogur……………”

Lord as a Maarga Bandhu
Kaalamegha Perumal is said to be a close friend of the devotees and is said to be one who provides direction and guides the devotees who come to him for Moksham. Hence he is also referred to as ‘Maarga Bandhu’.

A unique ChakkarathAzhvaar

The ChakkarathAzhvaar at Thiru Moghur temple can be seen with 16 hands and 16 arms. There is an inscription containing 154 letters signifying Hiranya Samhaaram as well as 48 images of different Lords. This is the only Divya Desam with such sacred letters and images inscribed on ChakkarathAzhvaar.

NammAzhvaar Praise
NammAzhvaar praises the Lord saying all the difficulties will go away if one just goes around Kaalamegha Perumal once.

“Matru Ilam Aran Vaan Perum Pazh Thani Muthalaasutrum
Neer Padaithu Athan Vazhithol Muni Muthalaa ,
Mutrum Devarodu Ulagu Seivaan ThiruMogur
Sutri Naam Valanjcheyya, Nam Thuyar Kedum Kadithey’

Darshan as Thirupaarkadal Naathan

Wanting to see the Lord churning the ocean to secure the nectar, Sage Palasthiyar undertook penance here. Pleased with his prayers, Lord appeared before him and gave him darshan. Hence there is a separate sannidhi for the Lord as ‘Thirupaarkadal Naathan’.

Shiva was attracted to the Lord in the Mohini form and wanted to embrace her. Hence, Lord Vishnu actually created another Mohini here at this place.

Another feature here is that Lord Adiseshan is fully adorned with gold ornaments.

Festivals : Vaikasi Brahmotsavam, Puratasi Pavitrosatvam, Margazhi Adyaana Utsavam, Maasi Gajendra Moksham

Quick Facts

Deity             : Kalamegha Perumal East Facing Standing Posture
Goddess         : Mohana Valli Thaayar
Utsavar          : Thiru Mogur Aapthaan, Kodamaadu Koothan
Paasurams      : Thirumangai Azhvaar-1, NammAzhvaar-11
Temple timing  : 7am-12noon and 4pm-8pm

Priest     : Ramakrishna Bhattar @ 0452 2422744 or 98425 24325 or Govindan Bhattar @ 95000 43011
Address : 7 East Mada Street, Thiru Mogur 625 107

Bus : From Madurai Maatuthaavani Bus stand, one can take the Melur bus and get down at Othakadai stop (about 3 kms). From OthaKadai, one can either take a mini bus / share auto (2kms to Mogur) or an auto - Rs. 30.

Place to Stay : Best to stay in Madurai (College House, Hotel Supreme, Madurai Residency)
Retiring Room at the Railway Station ranks as one of the best in TN

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ashes- Boxing Day Test Match -Australia V England 1982

From the memories of Radio Commentary
Ashes Boxing Day Test - 25 years Ago
This 1982 Ashes test, the fourth in the series, remains unparalleled in recent memory, in the way both teams ran each other close in both innings and for its dramatic finish

Later this month, India will begin their quest for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at the MCG, with the Boxing Day test match (on December 26) being the first of the four tests.

Every year, The Boxing Day Test Match is one of the highlights of Australia’s cricket season and attracts the biggest crowd of the summer. Recent reports suggest that ticket sales for the Australia-India first test haven’t been all that bright.

This month’s story on cricket tales takes a look(from my Radio Australia memories) at the Boxing Day Test of 1982.

Australia (with non packer players) had lost the previous home ashes (1978-79) series 5-1 (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/06/ashes-1978-79-my-earliest-memories-of.html). The 1981 Ashes in England seemed to be going the Aussie way until a rejuvenated Botham (after relinquishing the captaincy) came and spoilt the party. Australia was thus staring at the possibility of a hat trick of Ashes losses.

Same look England squad
Several of the previous Ashes winning England team were part of this tour. Bob Willis was now the captain (While 1981 is referred to as the Botham’s Ashes, RGD Willis had played a key role in that series including in that Headingly Test), Botham had blossomed into a dominant force in world cricket, David Gower was at the peak of his prowess and Derek Randall, who had impressed one and all with his batting and flashy fielding in the 1978-79 Ashes, was still around.

Graeme Fowler (Indians would best remember him for his double hundred at Chepauk, Madras in the 1984-85 series), who is now a well known TMS expert on the BBC, was trying to establish himself on the international scene.

Geoff Miller, who had made a big impression in 78-79 Ashes in Australia, was back here as the lead spinner of the series.

England had found a new hero from South Africa, Allan Lamb, and a lot was expected from him (While on the topic of South African import, Australia too had one…Kepler Wessels was in his debut series. And for a while, that decade, he played a critical role for Australia at the top of the order).

It was a strong all round English team that seemed ready to take on the challenge of the Aussies.

Australia
The Aussie team, on the other hand, wore a different look from the previous Ashes. Greg Chappell was back as the captain having not figured in the previous 2 losses. The dashing David Hookes was back to taunt the Englishmen (remember his 5 successive fours of Tony Grieg in the late 70s). As mentioned above, Australia found an import that proved most beneficial to them through the 1980s. Kepler Wessels, who had played for Queensland(South Africa was under Apartheid ban)in the Sheffield Shield, made his Test debut in this series with a match winning century and was to remain an integral part of the team.

Allan Border and Kim Hughes were really the only batsmen who were part of both the 78-79 and 1981 losses.

A weakened Aussie Bowling
The attack was spearheaded by Thommo and a young Geoff Lawson (now the Pakistan coach). Alderman had a freak accident in the first test on his home ground and didn’t feature again. Lillee too played just the one test in the series. Rodney Hogg, who had a phenomenal debut series in 1978-79, was around but not the same force as before.

Through the late 70s and the 80s, Australia struggled on the spin bowling front - Jim Higgs, Peter Sleep and Bob Holland had all played at different points of time but none really created a lasting impression. The one who had reasonable success during the early 1980s was Bruce Yardley, who was the spinner in this series.

Hence it was rather a shaky bowling line up for the Aussies.

The Boxing Day Test Match of 1982-Cliff Hanger
25 years ago, the 1982 Boxing Day test (the 4th test in the series) attracted a huge crowd with Australians gunning to regain the Ashes. England came into this test 2-0 down, after back to back defeats at the Gabba and the Adelaide Oval. They had to win at the MCG to give themselves a chance of retaining the Ashes.

During the first three tests, the English batting had remained inconsistent. Gower, Fowler, Randall and Lamb had all run up big scores in one test or other but did not combine together well. Willis and Botham had led the bowling attack well but batters had let them down.

For the Australians, Chappell was in fine form and Wessels had had a sensational debut. David Hookes showed flashes of his brilliance. A fiery Lawson more than made up for Lillee’s absence. Thomson had a point to prove - that he was still a force to reckon with. And a force he was in this series (he not only contributed with the ball, but with the bat as well as seen below).

Coming into this test, the pressure was on England to go for the win (a draw was enough for Australia to regain the Ashes). And what a match it turned out to be. As seen often, close and dramatic matches are typically the ones where big totals are not posted by either of the teams.

Slowest Test Batsman
In the first half of that decade, England found a batsmen who possibly would rank as one of the most boring in test history. Chris Tavare, with Kent then and later Somerset, would, that decade, play some of the dourest innings’ in tests (closest may be a Shoaib Mohammed, but at least he had a solid technique).

However, it was Tavare’s innings of 89 on Boxing Day, that was the highlight of Day 1along with the strokeful 80 of Allan Lamb on what was yet another poor batting display by England.

Norman Cowans’ wickets in successive balls including Chappell’s for a first ball duck brought England back into the match on day 2. David Hookes scored a typically dashing half century to help Australia close in on England. However, a late order collapse meant only 3 runs separated the teams after the first innings, with Australia getting the psychological advantage of the lead.

English Collapse on Day 3
Having fought back well with the ball to be on level terms after the first innings, England collapsed on day 3. David Gower failed again and England seemed to be out of the match (and the series) at 6/160. For a while, Botham brought back memories of 1981 with a dashing knock and threatened to repeat the ‘comeback’ effort. However, with his dismissal at 200, England was still in big trouble.

41 year old Bob Taylor does it again
4 years earlier, in the 1978-79 Ashes, Bob Taylor, had played a crucial 2nd innings knock in the Adelaide test (5th test in the series) to get England back from almost a similar situation. England had led by 5 runs on first innings then but had collapsed to 150/6 in the 2nd innings, before Taylor played a gutsy knock, along with Geoff Miller, to take England past 350 - England won that match.

(In between, Taylor had also played a gritty knock in Bombay in the Golden Jubilee-Botham’s Test in 1980).

This time, Taylor combined with Derek Pringle (almost half his age), to pull England out of the dumps to give respectability to its 2nd innings. From 200/7, the two helped England post a score of 294, leaving Australia to score 292 to win.

England discovers a fast bowler for the future
On the 4th day, England was to find an unlikely hero. While the Englishmen were looking for a big effort from Willis and Botham, it was a young, bustling 21 year old from Jamaica who ripped through the Aussie top and middle order on day 4 to leave Australia reeling. Aussies had no answer to Norman Cowans’ pace and despite another typically dashing 60 from David Hookes, Australia collapsed on the 4th afternoon.

That afternoon, it looked like Cowans would have a long career with England. However, it turned out to be a one off performance and he faded away quickly without much glory. Cowans’ burst that day left Australia at 218/9, on the 4th evening, needing another 70+ when Jeff Thomson joined an out of form Allan Border. Border had not scored a fifty yet in the series.

Final Session on Day 4
Given this, it did seem to be only a matter of time before England wrapped up the test and reduce the series lead to 2-1, but it was not to be. Through that session, England adopted the strategy of giving away a single to the out of form Border to try and get last man Thommo out.

Border had done very little of note in the series until the evening session on day 4. And yet, quite shockingly, he was allowed to get back into form thanks to a strategy that several captains seem to follow when a top order batsman is batting alongside a tail ender. With every passing minute that evening, the tension mounted and Thomson and Border were gaining in confidence.

They had added 40 runs that evening and saw through till stumps with Australia requiring a further 35 on the final morning.

A Tense Final Morning
And the same story continued through the first hour on the final morning. Border reached his first fifty of the series and Thomson was sticking around along with AB. The final wicket pair seemed to be taking Australia to an unlikely win at the MCG and thus a series win and the Ashes.

But this Boxing Day Test Match was destined to be an all time great Ashes test. And we were to witness(hear) one final twist to the proceedings.

A dramatic Catch by Geoff Miller to end the Test Match
With just a boundary required to win, Thomson edged Botham to Tavare (quite a safe slipper), who let it slip and the ball popped out. In a reflex action, Geoff Miller went behind Tavare to grab the rebound to give England a dramatic 3 run win and get them back in the series. Border and Thomson had almost pulled it off for Australia but the remarkable Miller catch saved the blushes for England.

The 4th evening and 5th morning had provided great excitement, especially to listen to it live on the radio, in those non- TV days.

Conclusion
25 years hence, the Miller effort still remains a catchy photograph - going behind Tavare to give England victory. We have several great Ashes battles since this Boxing Day Test match of 1982 (including some exciting finishes in 2005), but this Ashes test remains unparalleled in recent memory in the way the two teams ran each other close in both innings and ranks as an all time great Boxing Day Clash.

The scores: England 284 and 294 Australia 287 and 288.

(England could only draw the fifth test at the SCG and thus Australia regained the Ashes)

Commentators: Alan McGilvary, Jim Maxwell and Denis Compty, Expert- Norman O’Neil

Friday, December 7, 2007

Thirucherai Saranathan Divya Desam

The Divya Desam where Lord Vishnu is seen with five Goddesses

Located about 3 kms South of Naachiyar Temple(about 15kms off Kumbakonam) is the Saaranaathan temple in ThiruCherai. This is part of the Krishnaaranya Kshetram and is between Naachiyaar koil and ThiruKannamangai Divya Desam.

Brahmma who wanted to save the Vedas tried to preserve its contents in a mud pot. Every time, he tried making the pot, it broke down. He looked up to Vishnu for solution and was asked to go Thiru Cherai to collect the sand for the making of the pot.

Ganga the most sacred
Once Ganga, Cauvery and other big rivers (transforming themselves into young girls) were playing at the foot of the Vindhya Hills. A Gandharva, who was passing by, waited for a minute and saluted them. Curious to know who he looked at, they approached the Gandharva who answered that his salute was addressed at the senior most among them.

While the rest of them gave way, Ganga and Cauvery got into an argument as to who was senior among the two and went to Brahmma for the decision. Brahmma pronounced that the water he used for the special pooja of Lord Vishnu flowed down as the Ganges and hence she was the most sacred.

Dejected by this, Cauvery was eager to get herself a similar stature. Brahmma asked her to undertake penance at ThiruCherai and invoke Vishnu’s blessings as he was the only one who could provide her with a solution.

Cauvery requested the Lord to stay at Thirucherai in the same form and he accepted her wish. Also, she wanted to achieve the status of the ‘sacred water’. Fulfilling this promise and her 2nd wish, he chose to reside in Srirangam on the banks of Cauvery when Vibheeshana was taking his idol back to Sri Lanka (as seen in the Srirangam Story- http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/09/108-divya-desams-srirangam-lord.html).

Renovation of the temple
Naayak King of Thanjavur, who was attached to Vishnu temples, sent construction materials to Mannargudi for the construction of the Rajagopalaswamy temple. A minister of the king decided to bring a few bricks on every trip to Thiru Cherai for the renovation of this temple.

Suspecting this, the king decided on a sudden inspection. A worried minister prayed to Rajagopalaswamy and to the surprise of the Nayak King, the Mannargudi Lord is said to have appeared before the king at Thirucherai, at the time of the inspection. A delighted king immediately allocated funds towards the construction and renovation of the Thirucherai temple.

Big Chariot
The temple has a big chariot comparable in size to the chariot of Saarangapaani temple

Quick Facts

Moolavar   : Saaranathan -Standing Posture facing East
Thayar       : Saara Naayaki
Azhvaar     : Thirumangai Azhvaar (Periya Thirumozhi 7.4)
Temple time : 7am-12noon and 4pm-7pm

Priest : Ramudu Bhattar @ 94441 04374,0435-2468078, 0435 2468001

How to reach
Thiru Cherai is about 3 kms from Nachiyar Koil on the way to Thiru Kannamangai and just under 15kms from Kumbakonam on the Tiruvarur highway. Buses ply every 15 minutes from Kumbakonam. 

Place to Stay : Best to stay in Kumbakonam