Tuesday, June 30, 2009

PeriAzhvaar's Poochoodal on Srirangam Arangan

கரு உடை மேகங்கள் கண்டால்
உன்னைக் கண்டால் ஒக்கும் கண்கள்

உரு உடையாய் உலகு எழும்
உண்டாக வந்து பிறந்தாய்

திரு உடையால் மணவாள
திருவரங்கதே கிடந்தாய்

மருவி மனம் கமழுகின்ற
மல்லிகை பூச் சூட்ட வாராய் (183)

Karu Udai Megangal Kandaal
Unnaik Kandaal Okum kangal
Uru Udaiyaai Ulagu Ezhum
Undaaga Vanthu Piranthaai

Thiru Udaiyaal Manavaala
Thiruvarangathey Kidanthaai
Maruvi Manam Kamazhukinra
Malligai Poochoota Vaaraai


PeriAzhvaar lavishes praise on Srirangam Ranganatha in one of his verses
in Poochoodal.

He says that the moment one has a darshan of the Lord of Srirangam, one's eyes lit up and one starts rejoicing like one does when one sees the dark clouds covering the sun just before the rains start to pour down.

He refers to the Lord as one who took birth to redeem the seven worlds. He asks the bridegroom, of the Goddess of Wealth, one who resides in Srirangam to come and adorn the beautiful Jasmine flowers which he says have an ever lasting fragrance.

Raghava Bhattar of Mannargudi passes away

Mannargudi Raghava Deekshithar hit by a vehicle near Madurantakam
He had been serving Lord Rajagopalaswamy for the last 75years

Possibly the oldest active Bhattar passed away yesterday in a road accident when a vehicle knocked him over while he was by the side of the Madras-Trichy highway near Madurantakam on Sunday night(at around 12.15am monday 29th June, just 12hours after he had received the long standing service award from Kinchitkaram Trust at the Kamarajar Arangam in Madras.

Raghava Deekshitar was 88 years and had been serving Lord Rajagopalaswamy of Mannargudi for the last 75+ years(Yes, he had been at the temple since the age of 12).

I met Raghava Deekshithar a few years ago when I first visited Mannargudi temple. Since then, my interactions with him and his son the 60year old Jayakumar Deekshithar have been continuous and engaging. While every one is looking to make the extra buck, Raghava Deekshithar would be up early morning every single day to open the doors for his devotees to have darshan of Lord Rajagopalaswamy at Mannargudi or Ramar at Vaduvur.

Only 3 months ago, when I reached the Mannargudi temple at 6am, Raghava Deeskhithar ‘forced’ me to join him on a 13km bus trip to Vaduvur for Vishvaroopam Darshan at the Ramar Koil there. He would not let me go without visiting Vaduvur Ramar. He would stand in the bus through this entire journey such was his devotion for the Lord. Despite his old age, he would not ask any one for a seat in the bus.

I handed over the pooja items to him that morning at the Vaduvur Ramar Koil. He expressed happiness at this and blessed me to do a lot more for the perumal koils.

The story goes that, and I have heard this time and again over the last few years, that he would travel all over Tamil Nadu and to other Perumal koils all on his own and by taking the state bus transport.

Even on this trip to receive the award from Kinchitkaram Trust, he was all on his own with no one accompanying him.

A meeting with Raghava Deekshithar was enough to revitalise the hope that all is well with Perumal Koils in Tamil Nadu- his indomitable spirit of engaging with the Lord and his determination to visit other Divya Desams all alone by bus at an age when most would be back home on their easy chair, gave one a lot of cheer and confidence that age is not a restriction to serve the Lord if you had the inclination.

Periyazhvaar's praise of Thiru Kudanthai Aravamudhan

குடங்கள் எடுத்து ஏற விட்டுக்
கூத்தாட வல்ல எம கோவே

மடம் கொள் மதிமுகதாரை
மால்செய வல்ல என் மைந்தா

இடங்திட்டு இரணியன் நெஞ்சை
இரு பிளவு ஆகா முன் கீண்டாய்

குடந்தைக் கிடந்த எம் கோவே
குருகத்திப் பூச் சூட வாராய்


Periyazhvaar composed 10 verses referred to as Poochoodal. In his 7th paasuram in the Poochoodal, PeriAzhvaar sings praise of Kudanthai Aaravamudhan.

PeriAzhvaar praises the sleeping lord at Kudanthai (Kumbakonam) as a King who was deft at juggling pots thrown in the air. He refers to the Lord as the young prince who infatuates the young and beautiful girls. He wants the Lord who once tore open the chest of Hiranyakashipu and who is now residing in a reclining posture at Thiru Kudanthai to come and wear the Kurukaththi flowers.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Karamadai Ranganatha

Ramanuja visited the temple on his way from Srirangam to Thiru Narayanapuram

Located about 30kms from Coimbatore on the Mettupalayam Highway is the Swayambu Ranganatha temple in Karamadai set in the backdrop of the blue mountain. Karikala Chozhan and Mysore King Krishnaraja Wodeyar are said to have made contributions to the temple. Thirumalai Nayakkar built the temple walls and several mandapams in and around the temple.

Railway Line and the temple

A British engineer wanted to construct a railway line near this temple that would have caused inconvenience to the temple and its festivals. Pleased with the sincere prayers of the devotees, Lord Ranganatha is said to have come, in a white horse, in the dreams of the British engineer, who then is said to have changed the direction of the railway line.

The happy British engineer donated a wooden white horse to the temple. To this day, the utsavar deity takes the street processions on this white horse.

The story
People in the region, who used to find their livelihood grazing and milking cows, found a particular cow returning without milk after a trip every morning. Surprised at this, they followed the cow and found that the cow stopped at a particular spot and let out the milk.

On digging the mound, they found Lord Ranganatha beneath.

Delighted at this occurrence, they built mandapams around this place and constructed the temple for Ranganatha who is seen here as a Swayambu Murthy – one who came out of the earth on his own. Unlike other Ranganatha temples, where he is in a reclining posture, only the moolavar deity’s face can be seen.

Ramanuja’s visit to Karamadai Ranganathar
Ramanuja is said to have visited this temple on his way from Srirangam to Thiru Narayanapuram (Melkote).

Festivals
Navarthri Festival
Vaikunda Ekadesi Festival

Chariot Procession, that takes place on the full moon day in Maasi, is a special highlight at this temple


Quick Facts

Moolavar: Ranaganatha East Facing Swayambu Moorthy (only face is seen)
Thaayar : Ranganayaki
Utsavar : Venkatesa Perumal

Temple Time: 6am-12noon and 4pm-9pm

Contact : Veda Vyasa Sudarshana Bhattar@ 94873 60717 or 04254 273043

How to reach:
1. By Train:
One can take Chennai- Mettupalayam Blue Mountain Express (arrival in Mettupalayam at 6.15am). Karamadai is 7 kms from Mettupalayam towards Coimbatore.

2. Buses every 5minutes to Karamadai from Coimbatore (Mettupalayam/Ooty bound)

3. By Car- It will cost about Rs.500/- by tourist car from Coimbatore and back

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thondaradipodi Azhvaar

Composed 55 of the most beautiful verses of the Naalayira Divya Prabhandham
Thirupalli Yezhuchi and Thiru Maalai in praise of Srirangam Lord Ranganatha

Born in Thiru Mandangudi in the Papanasam taluk in Kumbakonam district, Thondaradipodi Azhvaar, one of the last of the Azhvaars (he lived just before ThirupaanAzhvaar), was the most ardent devotee of Srirangam Lord Rangantha. So much so that he decided to sing praise only of the Srirangam Lord.

But what songs were they… some of the most beautifully composed paasurams of the Naalaayira Divya Prabhandham were the ones composed by Thondaradipodi, whose original name was Vipra Narayanan, signifying one who had not just mastered all the Vedas but who lived by the essence of the Vedas- ‘I surrender to Lord Emberamaanaar and am a slave of him’.

His early life
Thondaradi Podi Azhvaar lived his life in the ultimate service of Lord Ranganatha. He created a beautiful Nandavanam in Srirangam on the western side.

Every day, he would pluck flowers, make a garland and would hand it to the Lord. This is said to be the most ‘Uththamam’ of service to the Lord.

Living in Brahmacharyam

Vipra Narayanan wanted to live in Brahmacharyam through his life. Once, Deva Devi, a beautiful dancer, came to the Nandavanam. While everyone was attracted by her beauty, Vipra Narayanan remained engrossed in plucking the flowers, though she was standing next to him.

She was surprised to see a man who would not even turn to look at a beautiful lady within his sight. Her friends informed her that he was very committed in his service and that she will not be able to attract him.

Taking it as a challenge, Deva Devi decided to be with him and help him in his service. One evening, the place was struck by lightening and thunder and in the heavy rains that followed, she asked for permission to stay in his place that night. Having been pleased with her service, he permits her to stay. That night, she wins over him and is delighted to have finally attracted him.

Having won the challenge, she decides to leave him. By now, Vipra Narayanan is unable to live without her and offers his prayers to Lord Ranganatha to get her back.

One evening, Lord Ranganatha goes to her place and hands over 4 Golden Vattil and informs her that Vipra Narayanan asked him to hand it over to her. The next day, the king finds that the Vattils are missing from the temple. A maid working at Deva Devi’s place informs the king that she saw those Vattil’s in her place. Suspecting Vipra Narayanan’s role in this, the king locks him up in a Jail.

It is here that Vipra Narayanan realises his folly of having fallen prey to the beauty of a woman. He regretted the fact that he had lost thought of the Lord for a while and that what he is suffering now was a result of this weakness.

Thirupalli Yezhuchi and Thiru Maalai

Once released, Vipra Narayanan comes back, remains in thought of the Lord ever after and composes 2 of the best known Paasurams of the Divya Prabhandham - 45 verses of Thiru Maalai(872-916) as well as 10 verses of ThiruPalli Yezhuchi (917-926).

It is said that those who do not know Thiru Maalai will not really understand the Lord, his fame and his powers, such is its composition. Belief is that one who listens regularly to the Thiru Maalai will change, dramatically, for the good.

One of the specialities of the Thiru Maalai is that it is in a very simple language and can be easily understood by all. Listening to Thiru Maalai will instantly enlighten one. In his first paasuram, Thondaradi Podi says:

காவலிற் புலனை வைத்து , களிதன்னைக்
கடக்க பாய்ந்து
நாவலிட்டு உழிதர்கின்றோம் நமன்-தமர்
தலைகள் மீதே

மூவுலகு உண்டு உமிழ்ந்த முதல்வ
நின் நாமம் கற்ற

ஆவலிப்பு உடைமை கண்டாய்
அரங்க மா நகருளானே

It is said that Lord Ranganatha wanted to listen to the praise from his own son and hence wanted Thondaradipodi Azhvaar to sing praise of his fame. In his very first Paasuram, Thondaradipodi tells Lord Ranganatha of the fame behind his name (Lord’s).

Thondaradipodi has his feet on Yaama and says that he has sung praise of Lord Ranganatha himself and hence no foul can befall him and that Yama cannot take him (as he has Ranganatha’s blessings). He says he can exult and rejoice stepping on the head of Yama.

பச்சை மா மலை போல் மேனி பவளவாய்
கமலச் செங்கன்
அச்சுத அமரர் ஏறே,ஆயர் தம்

கொழுந்தே என்னும் இச்ச சேவை தவிர,
யான் போய் இந்திரா லோகம் ஆளும்
அச்ச சுவை பெறினும் வேண்டேன்,
அரங்க மா நகருளானே


In the 2nd of his Thiru Maalai, Thondaradipodi says, "Lord of Srirangam, I would not even accept the opportunity to rule Indira Logam if you gave it to me. I would not want even that, if you deny me the opportunity and the joy of singing praise of you".

Through his 10 verses of Thiru Palli Yezhuchi, Thondaradipodi Azhvaar praises Srirangam Ranganatha and asks him to wake up and shower his blessings to all his devotees, now that the sun is up!!!!

கதிரவன் குணதிசைச் சிகரம் வந்து அணைந்தான்,
கணை இருள் அகன்றது காலை அம பொழுதாய்

மது விரிந்து ஒழுகின மா மலர் எல்லாம்
வானவர் அரசர்கள் வந்து வந்து ஈண்டி

எதிர்திசை நிறைந்தனர் இவரொடும் புகுந்த
இருங் களிற்று ஈட்டமும் பிடியொடு முரசும்

அதிர்தலில் அலை-கடல் போன்றுள்ளது எங்கும்
அரங்கத்தம்மா, பள்ளி எழுந்தருளாயே!!

Says Thondaradipodi, “The sun has risen, flowers have blossomed, everyone is ready before your sanctum. The elephant has come. The drums are beating. Please wake up, Lord Rangantha”

Thirumangai changes the direction of his famous Mathil

The last of the Azhvaars, Thirumangai, found the Nandavanam created by Thondaradipodi, coming in the way of the Western wall of the Srirangam temple. But such was the regard for Thondaradipodi and his creation of the beautiful garden that was abound with flowers all around, that Thirumangai altered the direction of the wall slightly and moved it away from the Nandavanam.

Lord offers Sri Vaikuntam, Thondaradipodi refuses
Srirangam Ranganatha offered Thondaradipodi a chance to go to SriVaikuntam, but he refused. He then offered him to go to the 14 logams(7+7 logams). But Thondaradipodi refused this too saying that this 3rd world – Srirangam- is where he will stay. Nothing can move him out of here.

In all times, this is the best place for one to be- to spend your Childhood, Youth,family life- for all of them. In and around the Srirangam temple, all of them can enjoy. Hence, I will not move out of here, said Thondaradipodi Azhvaar. And stayed here ever after.

Thondaradipodi Azhvaar Sannidhi is at the Southern Entrance(தெற்கு வாசல்) of the Srirangam temple on the right just before the Ranga Vilas Mandapam.

Vasanthotsavam Srirangam June 2009

Namperumal spends the evenings during this festival at the Nandavanam created by Thondaradipodi Azhavaar

Srirangam is the only Divya Desam where festivals are celebrated round the year (except for about 45days, there are festivals all through the year)

Celebrated in the Tamil Calendar month of Vaikasi, the 9 day Vasanthotsavam festival in Srirangam sees Namperumal, the Utsavar deity of Lord Ranganatha temple, enjoying the evenings in the beautiful Nandavanam(Garden) created by Thondaradi Podi Azhvaar.

The Nandavanam was so beautiful that when Thirumangai was in the process of building the now famous ‘Mathil’ of Srirangam, he slightly changed the direction of his construction on the Western side so as to not destroy any part of the Nandavanam.

Speciality of Vasantha Kaalam
Vasantha Kaalam was said to be a period that brought in a nice breeze in the evenings, flowers were said to blossom and a time that was neither too hot nor brought rains. It is believed that this stay amidst the breezy trees and in the middle of the tank in the Nandavanam gave Lord Namperumal a lot of happiness. Legend has it that one used to perform Jyothista Homam, said to help in reaching Swargam, in Vasantha Kaalam. Hence the belief is that one will be liberated from his curse if he drinks the sacred water of the Lord during the Vasantha Utsavam. For this reason, it is said that those who visit and offer their prayers to Lord Namperumal during this festival will find a new sense of happiness.

While in early years, Namperumal, stayed at the Ramanuja Sannidhi on the Eastern side of the temple, with passing of time, a new Vasantha Mandapam was created in the Nandavanam area, with a beautiful water pool in the tank around the Mandapam and it is here that spends the evenings during the Vasanthotsavam.

Evening Procession

Starting at 5pm every evening, Lord Namperumal takes the Arya Bhattal Vaasal- Garuda Mandapam route to reach the entrance of Chakkrathazhvaar Sannidhi. And dancing his way into the Nandavanam, Namperumal is all set for an Alankaaram at the Vasantha Mandapam by 6pm.

Daasi Community- Dance Performance
In centuries gone by, people belonging to the Daasi Community were honoured during the Vasanthotsavam with a garland of the Lord. They were believed to have lit the lamp and performed a special dance in front of the Lord at the Vasantha Mandapam.

The Daasi Community, that used to reside on the VOC Road in Srirangam, does not exist anymore and hence this special performance during the Vasanthotsavam does not take place these days.

(It is said that the Daasi Community still performs this special dance at the Puri Jagannath temple)

Diyva Prabhandham Goshti Chanting

After spending about 3 hours in the cool Vasantha Mandapam, Namperumal starts his way back to his sanctum at around 845pm. This is one of the only 5 festivals(others being 3 Brahmotsavam-Thai, Panguni and Chitrai- and Theppotsavam in the Tamil Calendar month of Maasi) at the Srirangam temple where Lord Namperumal enjoys the trip back to the sanctum sanctorum listening to the Divya Prabhandham chanting.

Special stop in front of the Thaayar Sannidhi

On his way back, Namperumal stops outside the Thaayaar Sannidhi for a glimpse of Ranganaayaki Thaayar. Sacred water and special Dal from the Thaayar Sannidhi is presented to the Lord and after the lighting of the ‘Nei Deepam’ of the Thaayar, Namperumal continues his procession through the 1000 pillared mandapam.

(After his visit to the Thaayar Sannidhi for the Serthi Festival during Panguni Uthiram, this is first trip to meet his consort. This time, it is only for a minutes and the Lord is allowed only a glimpse from outside!!!!)

At the entrance leading to the Garuda Sannidhi, Namperumal stops for about 5minutes to allow the devotees sing his praise. The Prabhandham chanting reaches a peak with the verses reverberating high positive energy among the devotees.

Story of Madhu Vanam
(While on the story on Nandavanam, there is another interesting episode relating to Madhu Vanam, said to be one of the favourite Vanams of Vaanara King Sugreeva. Around the time of Anjaneya’s return from Sri Lanka (after his visit in search of Sita), Madhu Vanam was destroyed completely by the Vaanaras. Interestingly, Sugreeva was not angered by this destructive act of his Vaanaras and knew that the Vaanaras had heard some happy news. It is said that Vaanaras get emotional on happy occasions and in this frame of mind, they go about conveying their happy emotions by patting/hitting hard at things they find.

The story goes that Sugreeva was happy that Lord Rama was protected from the Vaanaras as they directed their happiness at his favourite Madhu Vanam which was located in front of where Rama was residing at that time. Rama on hearing ‘Kanden Seethaiyai’ message from Hanuman is said to have given him a warm embrace thus almost placing him on equal terms with Sita Devi herself)
.

Last day of Vasanthotsavam
The Vasanthotsavam ends with the Horse Vaahanam Goshti of Namperumal across the four Chitrai Streets of Srirangam on the 9th day of the festival. Also, on the last evening, one can witness a Thirumanjanam at the Vasantha Mandapam.