When Ranganayaki Thayar shut the door on Lord Ranganatha
This historic annual event dating back to the period of the origins of Araiyars was re-enacted on the occasion of Panguni Uthiram last Friday morning at the Thayar Sannidhi of the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam.
Ranganayaki Thayar was furious. She had heard from her sources about Lord Ranganatha’s secret trip to Woraiyur, earlier that week, to meet his beloved Kamalavalli Nachiyar. To add fuel to fire, her sources also told her that he had presented a ring at Woraiyur.
Clearly she was upset and was waiting for an opportunity to express her disapproval of his trip. And the opportunity presented itself on the morning of Panguni Uthiram when Lord Ranganatha was to come and meet with her.
As he tried to make a hurried entry into her Sannidhi just after 10am, she shut the door on him. Shortly after, as he tried to make a re-entry, a fuming Thayar directed her representatives to pelt the Lord and his representatives with butter.
This led to five rounds of debate inside the Thayar Sannidhi with Araiyars (Krishnan and Sampath Kumar) representing Lord Ranganatha trying their best to defend the Lord and his actions against the Pandaris (Sudarshan) representing Ranganayaki Thayar.
The Araiyars began round one by putting forth the Lord’s defence that he had been out for well over three hours that morning in the hot Panguni sun, listening to the Vedic and Divya Prabhandham recitals of the Brahmins and providing darshan to the devotees across the four Chitra and Uthira streets. He pleaded that this was the reason for the delay and that it was only fair that she accepted his garland and allowed him to enter her Sannidhi.
Pandaris (who were assigned the responsibility by Ramanuja of taking care of Thayar) retorted that this was poor reasoning and put him on the defensive by questioning if providing darshan to devotees was indeed the real reason or if there was some hidden agenda (indirectly pointing to the fact that he was actually out there through the morning collecting money from the devotees to try and buy a ring to replace the one that he had presented to Kamalavalli Nachiyar at Woraiyur)
Thayar was surprised to find his eyes red, the hair disturbed, Thiruman not in the way it usually is and even nail marks on his body. Thayar was insistent on status quo being maintained – No one inside the Sannidhi should go out and those that are outside should not enter her Sannidhi, she ordered through the Pandaris.
Did you go to Woraiyur
As part of the second round of the debate, Araiyars defended the Lord saying that he had spent sleepless nights protecting his devotees and that was the reason for the red eyes. He had to go to the forest to fight the wild animals to protect his devotees and the nail marks was a result of that fight. He had lost his ring when Thirumangai Azhvaar, posing as a thief, attacked him in the middle of the night and that he was still searching for it and was confident of finding it back.
An unconvinced Ranganayaki Thayar fired a fiery question at him sending shock waves to the other side – ‘Did you go to Woraiyur.’
Where is Woraiyur:)
The next round began with Ranganatha in all his innocence saying that he had neither heard of nor seen that place. He contested that she was purposely trying to insult him in front of everyone by naming some place that he had never even heard of. This angered Thayar even further and she retorted that the Lord was trying to create an illusion by hiding everything and that she had gathered all the truth about his trip from her sources.
Pushed back further in every round and completely exasperated with the negative response, Lord Ranganatha decided that it was now time to resort to promises in an effort to convince her. He asked his representatives to draw her to his side by telling her that the Lord was ready to promise on the Ocean, the Fire and that he was even ready to put his hand inside the snake pit to prove his innocence.
Ranganayaki Thayar scoffed at these seemingly lofty promises saying that she is not the one to be outdone by these. Making promises was a well accepted practice to a truce when there was a fight between two parties but Thayar expressed surprise at the kind of promises he has made.
Does he expect the Serpant King on whom he resides all the time to bite him, she extolled!!! She refused to allow him entry at the end of the fourth round as well saying that he was trying to lure her back with such simple promises.
Araiyars came back a fifth time with an emotional appeal from the Lord who was standing at the entrance of the Thayar Sannidhi. ‘With the whole world watching him being thus insulted, it is a matter of time before they scoff at her and that all the blame for this public embarrassment of the Lord will have to be taken up by her. He has tried to convince her in every possible way but she has remained adamant and has refused to accept the flowers that he has presented her with love and affection.’
Thayar stood firm – ‘The Lord had done everything wrong but it now looked like he was passing on the blame game and trying to make me feel guilty’ she argued.
Nam Azhvaar who was a witness to the five rounds of intense debate for over an hour now intervened and advised Thayar to not insult the Lord anymore and to save him from further embarrassment. And as a mark of respect to the greatest of the Azhvaars, Ranganaayaki Thayar at the stroke of noon relented, ‘Lord, I accept you and allow you inside my Sannidhi as reasoned out and directed by Nam Azhvaar.’
This historic debate showcases to the world the beautiful relationship between a husband and a wife, the difference of opinion and the fights that are an integral part of a long relationship and the adjustments one has to make in a relationship for it to succeed.
( A version of this featured in The Hindu Friday Review on 10th April)