900 year old unique tradition performed on nearly 300days every year at the Srirangam Ranganatha temple
A one of its kind 900 year old tradition initiated by Ramanuja continues to be performed to this day at the Lord Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam. This is the only Divya Desam where the Lord is woken up and put to sleep by the sweet Veena Recital.
Yaazh Isai- Reference in Azhvaar Pasuram
Ramanuja, who returned to Srirangam after a 12 year exile to Melkote, laid down specific processes to be followed in each area of service at the temple. He also ensured that people from different walks of life participated in the temple routine. Ramanuja found reference to the Veena (Yaazh) in several pasurams of the Azhvaars.
In the Periya Thirumozhi, Thirumangai Azhvaar says
‘பண்ணின் இன் மொழி யாழ் நரம்பில் பெற்ற
பாலை ஆகி, இங்கே புகுந்து, என் கண்ணும்
In the Thiruvoimozhi, NammAzhvaar sings
‘முன் நல் யாழ் பயில் நூல் நரம்பின் முதிர் சுவையே’
In his praise of Thiru Kudanthai Aaravamudhan, NammAzhvaar brings out the sweetness of Veena recital:
‘சூழ்கண்டாய் என் தொல்லை வினையை....
யாழின் இசையே அமுதே , அறிவின் பயனே , அரி ஏறே.’
In Thirupalli Yezhuchi, Thondaradipodi Azhvaar cites the Veena recital:
‘ஏதம் இல் தண்ணுமை ஏக்கம் மத்தளி
யாழ் குழல் முழவமோடு இசை திசை கெழுமி
கீதங்கள் பாடினர் கின்னரர் கெருடர்கள்
கெந்தருவர் அவர் கண்குலுள் எல்லாம்’
Given this background, Ramanuja wanted Veena recitalto form an integral part of the daily routine at the Srirangam temple. And he gave it the most sacred and satisfying role- that of both waking up the Lord as well as putting him to sleep.
Sathya Kootam and Yaazh Isai
Ramanuja assigned ‘Sathya Kootam’, a clan belonging to a village near Srirangam and well versed in this art form. Thus began the early morning and late evening Veena recital at the Ranganatha temple in Srirangam. This traditional Veena recital has also been included in the Limca books of records(1992 book, page number 138) for paternal service at temples and for its sheer longevity under the 'Music' Category (Veena G.Rangarajan is recorded as the 45th descendent of the Sathya Kootam clan performing this Veena Recital Kainkaryam at the Ranganatha temple).
Thirupalli Yezhuchi through the Veena
Every morning at around 515am, for about 30minutes, the descendents of the Sathya Kootam clan, now headed by 75 year old Veena G. Rangarajan, the retired Vice Principal of National College Trichy, present, through their Yaazh Isai, Thondaripodi Azhvaar’s 10 beautiful verses called Thirupalli Yezhuchi - to wake up Lord Ranganatha from his sleep. It is believed that all the Divya Desam Lords spend the night here at Srirangam and hence this veena recital is equivalent to waking up the Lords at all the Divya Desams. Belief is that the other Divya Desam Lords go back to their home town after listening to this beautiful piece of Veena Recital.
The Sathya Kootam descendents have broken up these 10 verses of Thondaradipodi into 5 different Ragams, one ragam for every two verses- Roopalam, Bilahari, Dhanyasi, Malaya Marutham and Saveri.
Ranganathar Sayanam with their Veena Recital
Similarly in the evening for about 20minutes beginning 10pm, they present Kulasekara Azhvaar’s Pasurams to put the Lord to sleep.
"மண்ணு புகழ்க் கேளசளைதன்
தென் இலங்கைக் கொண்
முடிகள் சிந்துவித்தாய், செம்பொன்சேர் ....
என்னுடைய இன்னமுதே இராகவனே தாலேலோ"
"தேவரையும் அசுரரையும் திசைகளையும் படைத்தவனே
யாவரும் வந்து அடிவணங்க
ஏவரி வெஞ்சிலை வளவா ராகவனே தலேலோ"
The evening presentation has been composed in 4 different Ragams starting with Neelambari, going on to Ananda Bairavi, Sahana, Revathi and ending again with Neelambari.
They are paid Rs.2 Paise 57 per month (Yes, only about Rs.30 annually) every month for their divine service but the greatness about this kind of service to Lord Ranganatha, just like the Araiyar Sevai, is that they are not doing this for financial benefits!!!
They present this daily Veena Recital for 262 days (non festival days) in the year. In addition to this daily service, they also present the Veena recital for another 29 days including during the Poochaatu Kodai Utsavam and Era Pathu Festival.
Veenai Ekantham- Special Recital during Thiruvoi Mozhi Thirunaal
During the 10 day Era Pathu festival, they present Yaazh Isai for about an hour to one and half hours. Interestingly, while the daily morning and evening recitals are solo performances presented in a sitting posture, Veenai Ekantham during the Era Pathu Thiruvoimozhi festival is presented in a group (currently 5 members) in a standing posture with the Veena tied to their shoulder. In all, they present around 250 pasurams during this Tamil Prabandham festival. During this Veena Ekantham, there is pin drop silence in an otherwise noisy Srirangam temple, such is the regard for the presentation of these Veena Vidwans.
During the Era Pathu Ekantha Seva, the Veena Vidwans also present kritis composed by Thyagarajar,Dikshitar ,Arunachala Kavirayar,Aadi Shankara, Purandaradasa and Venkatathri Swamigal in languages such as Telugu,Kannada and Sanskrit, in addition to their presentation of the Prabhandham in Tamil. Their presentation in other languages has captured the imagination of devotees from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and other North Indian states and as a result they have been able to appreciate,better,the Veena Ekantham.
The tunes composed by them are elegant and simple in its presentation thus enabling devotees to easily grasp and understand. Also, a good part of their presentation is in a conversational style. However, while the final presentation seems simplistic, perfecting this art form takes a great deal of effort and time- For a beginner, it may take at least 10 years to acquire the knowledge and confidence to present this traditional art form.
For the first 2-3 years, one has to perfect the vocal music. For the next few years, they would have to learn the Instrument and then follow it up with learning the art of presenting the pasurams through the Veena.
Presentation outside Srirangam
Of late, as a recognition to their pleasing presentation to the Lord, several temples have invited the sathya kootam Veena Vidwans to present Veena Ekantham, the evening before the Sambrokshanam of the temple as a tradition to put the Lord to sleep on the previous night (before the Sambrokshanam).
Veenai G. Rangarajan has been presenting the Veena Recital at the Srirangam temple for the last 65years having begun his presentation in 1945, before India attained independence!!!!To ensure this centuries old tradition is passed on to the next generation, he has trained his sons and grandsons on this special composition.
Currently, Veena Rangarajan's sons, Srinivasan, Ramanujan,Govindan and Gopala Krishnan,as well as his Grandsons are involved in this unique and sacred Yaazh Isai presentation at the Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple.
Veena G. Rangarajan can be reached on 0431 2430706