Last week, Aathi Natha Azhvaar Temple in Azhvaar Tirunagari played host to the grandest of the festivals at Nava Tirupathi - nine Vishnu temples either side of Tamaraibarani off the Tirunelveli -Tiruchendur state highway. On the occasion of the 5th day (Wednesday June 8) of the Vaikasi Azhvaar Utsavam, the utsava deities of all the nine temples congregated at Azhvaar Tirunagari in a celebratory gesture to thank Nam Azhvaar for his significant contribution to the 4000 sacred verses (Nalayira Divya Prabhandham).
After his birth, Nam Azhvaar did not consume anything. Neither did he open his mouth for 16years. God was everything to him as he sat quietly under the Tamarind tree at Thiru Kurugur (another name for Azhvaar Tirunagari). God is always looking for such a special devotee. And for this reason, the Lord does not mind coming all the way to the devotee’s place and providing darshan.
Ahead of the visit of the Nava Tirupathi Lords, Azhvaar Tirunagari, the only Divya Desam to be named after an Azhvaar, wore a festive look. The women on the Sannidhi Street had started their traditional Pulli Kolam as early as 4am. Temporary shops sprung up on both sides of the Sannidhi Street, Nam Azhvaar was being decked up inside the temple and there was a buzz all around with devotees queuing up in and around the temple taking up vantage positions as they waited with bated breath for the first glimpse of the Nava Tirupathi Lords.
While Azhvaar Tirunagari was thus getting ready for the big event, by 6am that morning each of other eight ‘Nava Tirupathi’ Lords had begun their procession to this Divya Desam from their respective abodes in Nava Tirupathi to join the 9th Lord (Polintha Ninra Piraan, utsava deity of Aathi Natha Azhvaar Temple).
By 9am, Nam Azhvaar, with a beautifully decorated and colourful green umbrella atop him, made his way to the Ramayana Mandapa at the entrance of the temple to await the arrival of the Nava Tirupathi dieties. Shortly after, Nam Azhvaar, who is the only Azhvaar to have sung praise of all the Nava Tirupathi temples, received the first three of the Nava Tirupathi Lords- Kallapiran of Sri Vaikuntam, Vijayasayanar of Varagunamangai (Natham) and Kaisina Venthar of Thiru Pulingudi.
Welcoming them, Araiyar Natha Muni of Azhvaar Tirunagari (Azhvaar Tirunagari is one of the only three Divya Desams where Araiyar Seva is still being performed) presented Nam Azhvaar’s Thiruvoimozhi verse –‘புளிங்குடி கிடந்தது வரகுணமங்கை இருந்து வைகுந்தத்தில் நின்று ……’ - in which he sung praise of all three of them in one go referring to the Standing Lord of SriVaikuntam, the one in a grand sitting posture at Varagumangai and the Sleeping Lord of Pulingudi.
Nam Azhvaar accepted the parivattam (the turban linen) and the garland from the first of the three Nava Tirupathi Lord. Over the next hour, he accorded a similar welcome to the rest of the Nava Tirupathi Lords.
Nam Azhvaar refers to Aravinda Losana and Devapiran (Erettai Tirupathi) as the prosperous temple in Thulai Villi Mangalam on the Northern Bank of Porunai River (Tamaraibarani) where there was constant Vedic Chanting. This was followed by Mayakoothan from Perungulam who Nam Azhvaar referred to as a wonder dancer riding on Garuda in the West in Southern Kulanthai. His reference to groves and big mansions indicates that this was a prosperous location in centuries gone by.
Nam Azhvaar then welcomed the last two of the Nava Tirupathi Lords, from the East, Nigaril Mugil Vannan from ThenThiruperai, who he refers to as ‘மகர நெடுஞ் குலை காதன்’ (the one with the Makara ear rings) and Vaitha Maa Nidhi from Thiru Kolur, birth place of Madura Kavi Azhvaar.
While Nam Azhvaar received garland from all the 9 Nava Tirupathi lords, Madura Kavi Azhvaar, who pronounced Nam Azhvaar as his God, received the garland from the Azhvaar himself.
Natha Muni, who came here to compile the Naalayira Divya Prabhandham which had been lost to the world, first met with Madura Kavi Azhvaar and picked up his ‘Kanninun Sirutha Ambinaal’ composition. It was after reciting these verses 12000 times that Nam Azhvaar shared with Natha Muni the contents of the Naalayira Divya Prabhandham.
After Thirumanjana and Alankara through the evening and recital of 273 verses from the Divya Prabhandham (173 verses of Andal’s Thiruppavai and Nachiyar Thirumozhi and 100 verses from Nam Azhvaar’s Thiruvoimozhi), all the Nava Tirupathi Lords were all set to mount on their respective Garuda Vahana.
Much awaited Event - Once in a year processionAt 11.30pm, much to the delight of the 10000plus devotees who had gathered at the temple for the big event of the Azhvaar Utsavam, Nam Azhvaar, on his Hamsa Vahana, and Madura Kavi Azhvaar, on a special Parangi Narkali (Bamboo chair), came out to a loud cheer and positioned themselves at the entrance of the temple. For the next hour, beginning with Polintha Ninra Piraan, all the nine Utsava deities with extensive flower decoration came out one after another on their Garuda Vahana providing this special darshan to Nam Azhvaar.
Well after mid night, all the Nava Tirupathi deities along with Nam Azhvaar and Madura Kavi Azhvaar went on the once in a year procession, first around the four Mada streets and then around the Car streets of Azhvaar Tirunagari to provide darshan to devotees who had stayed awake through the night to witness this marvellous spectacle.
By 6am, the next morning, all of them were back at the Aathi Natha Azhvaar Tirunagari temple and shortly afterwards it was time for them to bid adieu to Nam Azhvaar and head back to their respective abodes in Nava Tirupathi.
Azhvaar’s send off - Special Gesture Being the farthest from Azhvaar Tirunagari, Mayakoothan of Perungulam (10kms away) was sent off first by Nam Azhvaar, followed by Kallapiran, Vijayasayanar and Kaisina Venthar.
Having seen Devapiran of Erettai Tirupathi as his own father and mother (சிந்தையாலும் சொல்லாலும் செய்கையினாலும் தேவபிரனையே தந்தை தாய் என்று அடைந்தவன் ……..Thiruvoimozhi verse), Nam Azhvaar in a special gesture of showing that extra care for his ‘parents’ waited a few extra minutes till Aravinda Losana and Devapiran of Errettai Tirupathi went completely out of sight at the Eastern end of Sannidhi Street past the Nayaka Mandapa on his way back to their abode. Following this, Nam Azhvaar saw off for another year Nigaril Mugil Vannan and Vaitha Maa Nithi.
To the Tamarai Barani
On the occasion of his birthday (Vaikasi Visakam) - the 10th day of the Utsavam this Monday (13th June) - Nam Azhvaar entered the Tamarai Barani for one of the only two occasions in the year (the other being in Maasi) for Theertha Vari accompanied by the loud rendering of Divya Prabhandham verses bringing to end Nava Tirupathi’s biggest utsavam.