Lord Ranganatha meets his beloved in Uraiyur, while an angry and upset Goddess Ranganayaki shuts the door on Him
On Friday 21st March 2008, un-seasonal rains greeted this year’s Panguni Uthiram festival in Srirangam.
The Serthi Story
The story goes that Goddess Ranganayaki of Srirangam had learnt, through her friends, about Namperumal’s (the Utsavar deity of Lord Ranganatha) trip,earlier in the week, to Uraiyur to meet his beloved Kamalavalli Naachiyar and the presentation of his ring to her. This angered Goddess Ranganayaki and she was waiting for a chance to express her unhappiness on the Lord.
(On Tuesday 18th March 2008, NamPerumal left Srirangam on a 6 km - 7 hour trip across River Cauvery to meets Goddess Kamalavalli for ‘Kalyana Utsavam’festivities at Uraiyur. On this auspicious 5th day in the Tamil Calendar month of Panguni, the entire marriage formalities between Lord Ranganatha and Goddess Kamalavalli was enacted at the Uraiyur Divya Desam).
A couple of days after his return from Uraiyur, on the occasion of Panguni Uthiram, NamPerumal plans a visit to meet the Goddess at her Sannidhi at the Northern entrance of Srirangam temple.
NamPerumal’s Uthirai and Chithirai Veedhi Procession called off
While the normal practice is for Namperumal to go around, at 6am, the Chitrai and Uthirai streets to meet the devotees and collect money to buy a ring (so he could escape the wrath of Goddess Ranganaayaki), the unexpected rains meant that the devotees had to meet Namperumal at the Ranga Vilas Mandapam inside the temple, amidst the chanting of Divya Prabhandham.
NamPerumal denied entry into Thaayar Sannidhi
At 930am, NamPerumal reached the Thaayar Sannidhi, through the Nandavanam on the western side, to meet the Goddess. However, to his shock, Goddess Ranganayaki shut the door on the Lord and refused to allow him entry into the Sannidhi. The faster he tried to enter the Sannidhi, the quicker the door shut on him and with greater intensity each time. Adding insult to injury, the Lord was pelted with butter by the priests of the Goddess and one found smudged faces all around on the Lord’s side.
Araiyar as the mediator
The Araiyars of Srirangam were brought in to act as mediators in the war of words between Lord Ranganatha and Goddess Ranganaayaki (represented by Pandari).
(Araiyars are descendents of Nathamuni, who is said to have introduced the Araiyar Sevai. It is believed that Lord Ranganatha himself gave the Araiyars the right to perform the unique musical chanting at the temples and presented them with the cone-like red/green 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).
The Araiyars recreated the debate scene, enacted the Azhvaar Paasuram and then explained its message in a simple language, which drew applause from the 1000s of devotees who had gathered inside the Thaayar Sannadhi.
During the 90 minute period on Friday morning, the Araiyars took the message from NamPerumal(waiting outside at the entrance of the Thaayar Sannidhi) and enacted it to the Panduri, who were representing the Thaayar. And the Araiyars took back Thaayar’s replies back to NamPerumal.
And they had to do this on 5 occasions before a settlement could be arrived at between the angry Thaayar and the pleading NamPerumal.
Intense Debate between NamPerumal and Ranganaayaki enacted by Araiyars
Goddess : Where did you go? Why is the Lord’s face full of Kungumam and wearing a tired look
NamPerumal : I have actually been out helping the Devas defeat the Asuras and hunting in the forest. That’s the reason for my delay
Not convinced with his reasoning, Goddess puts forth the next question (and with a lot of suspicion)
Goddess : I heard you went to Uraiyur
NamPerumal : (With a blushing face) I have neither seen nor heard Uraiyur
Goddess :But why is your face tired and worn out, like you have had a long trip. I ask you to go back and not come here. Those are inside shall remain inside my Sannidhi and those who are outside need not come in.
NamPerumal : (once again blushing) As I said, I have been out helping devotees be protected from the Asuras.
Goddess : Where is your ring then. Have you given it to someone? I do not want you inside my Sannidhi
NamPerumal : (An embarrassed look) I lost it while going behind a demon in the forest. I will search and find it
Goddess : I am not convinced with any of your answers. Please go back. Do not enter my Sannidhi
Lord : Everything I am saying is true. Whenever there is a fight and two parties do not come to an understanding, it is said that ‘Sathya Pramaanam’ (Promises) is accepted. I am willing to promise on the ocean, mountain, fire or by putting my hand inside the snake pit
Goddess : (Laughing off his promises) How difficult are these promises. These are nothing for you – you reside in the ocean (Paarkadal) and you sleep on the Snake
NamPerumal : I accept all my mistakes. Can you please stop embarrassing me in front of everyone and accept me
Goddess : I accept you as advised by NammAzhvaar- ‘Nambal NammAzhvaar Sonnapadiyaale Ungalai Etrukondom’ (Lord, I accept you and allow you inside my Sannidhi as reasoned out and directed by NammAzhvaar)
This heated debate between the Lord and the Goddess and way it ends, with Goddess accepting Lord NamPerumal again, showcases to the world the beautiful relationship between a husband and a wife, the differences of opinion, the fights and the adjustments one has to make in a relationship for it to succeed.
This event also showcases the regard one must have for elders and the role they play in our lives. This can be seen from the fact that despite being angry and upset at Lord Ranganatha’s behaviour, Goddess Ranganayaki listens to the words of NammAzhvaar and the respect she has for him makes her forgive the Lord and accept him once again. This event is a great lesson for one to follow in this fast paced world where ego seems to play a part in relationships among family members and friends.
With the settlement arrived, Lord NamPerumal entered the Thaayar Sannidhi at 11.30am and went into the ‘Serthi Mandapam’ and for the only time in the year was seen together with Ranganaayaki Thaayar.
10.30pm - Chinna Perumal night procession to Kollidam
It is a tradition that ‘Chinna Perumal’ goes on a procession to the Coloroon at 10.30pm on the Panguni Uthiram night. After Vedic Recital and distribution of sacred water, Chinna Perumal is brought to the Serthi Mandapam to be seated alongside NamPerumal and Ranganaayaki. However, with the Coloroon surprisingly running full in March, Chinna Perumal’s procession had to stop at the temple tank opposite the Paramapada Vaasal.
First time in over 35 years
NamPerumal was to have also taken a procession to the Yelakarai Mandapam on the eve of Panguni Uthiram. This too could not happen because of the rains. Priests at the temple say that this is the first time in over 35 years that this procession of Chinna Perumal to Coloroon and NamPerumal to Elakarai Mandapam has not taken place.
Recital of 16 Paasurams by Araiyar
At 3am on Saturday 22nd March 2008, Araiyar Sampath Kumar, in another pleasing performance, rendered 16 Paasurams of Naatha Muni praising Lord NamPerumal and Goddess Ranganaayaki at the Serthi Mandapam. NamPerumal’s dress was changed 18 times on the night and he was seen in different attires through the night. Special poojas were performed at the Serthi Mandapam which went on till Saturday morning.
(Araiyars are paid 2 Annas- 12 paise- for their sterling 'settlement of fight' performance on the Panguni Uthiram day. They do not take any salary from the temple and perform the ‘Araiyar Sevai’ as a service to the Lord. Quite a remarkable service!!!).
This is the only day in the year where Lord Ranganatha and Goddess Ranganayaki are seen together and hence this is a very sacred occasion. It is believed that a visit to the Srirangam temple on this day will relieve one of all sins and the Lord and Goddess are said to forgive devotees for all their wrongs.
The day after Panguni Uthiram
Early morning on Saturday 22nd March 2008, Goddess Ranganayaki went back into her Sannidhi and Lord Ranganatha bid good bye to her for another year. At 10.30am (delayed as a result of the rain), Lord NamPerumal came on a Chariot Procession through the four Uthirai streets and by evening was back in the sanctum.
The 3rd week of March culminating in Panguni Uthiram was eventful with NamPerumal crossing the Cauvery to meet his beloved Kamalavalli in Uraiyur and then returning to the Srirangam temple to find Ranganaayaki Thaayar denying him entry into her Sannidhi. Sanity was restored with the greatest of the Azhvaars, NammAzhvaar, directing Thaayar to accept the Lord. Notwithstanding the rains, this year’s Panguni Uthiram festival witnessed the biggest crowd in several years (queues ran up to Paramapada Vaasal) and devotees staying back through the night to listen to Divya Prabhandam recital and the Thirumanjanam at the Serthi Mandapam.