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.
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.