Saturday, May 6, 2017

Rama Navami Utsavam Srirangam

Kulasekara Azhvaar’s daughter in a Serthi Sevai with Lord Namperumal at the Arjuna Mandapam

Unlike many other Divya Desams in Tamil Nadu, historically the Rama Navami utsavam has been celebrated on the Navami (9th day after the No Moon Day) day in Chitrai at the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam. 
It is the day of the coming together of Sera Kula Valli Nachiyar and Lord Namperumal and the one day in the year when the otherwise secluded and almost unnoticed sannidhi North West of Arjuna Mandapam comes to light. Through the year, on the occasions that Lord Namperumal enters the Arjuna Mandapam, it is at the Sannidhi of ‘Thuluka’ (Bibi) Nachiyar that he stops by.

King turned Saint Poet Kulasekara Azhvaar, of Thiru Vanjikalam, was a great devotee of Lord Rama and he had a special liking for Lord Ranganatha. He himself was born on Punarvasu.

Kulasekara Azhvaar married a Pandya princess and ruled the Chera kingdom from Vanji and later won over Madurai. In his verses he refers to himself as the King of Madurai and a Chieftain of Koodal. He also refers to himself as the head of Kozhi and hence may have expanded his kingdom to his favourite city of Srirangam (Uraiyur) as well.

Relinquishing his kingdom, he came and settled down in Srirangam and was taken over by the idol presented by Lord Rama to the residents of Srirangam.

Perumal Thirumozhi
He was so moved by the Lord of Srirangam and the devotion of the residents that he dedicated the first three decads of his Perumal Thirumozhi to the Lord and his devotees at Srirangam. With each passing decad, Kulasekara Azhvaar, from being a new entrant to this temple town showcases how well entrenched he had become at this sacred town and how he now knew the Lord very well.
தேட்டருந்திறல் தேனினைத் தென்னரங்கனை
திருமாதுவாழ் வாட்டமில் வனமாலை மார்வனை
வாழ்த்தி மால்கொள் சிந்தையராய்

ஆட்ட மேவியலந்தழைத்து 
அயர் வெய்தும் மெய்யடியார்கள் தம் 
ஈட்டம் கண்டிடக் கூடுமேல்
அது காணும் பயனாவதே
After thus beginning with three decads to the Lord of Srirangam, Kulasekara Azhvaar ends Perumal Thirumozhi with three decads dedicated to Lord Rama including narrating the entire Ramayana in the final decad of ten verses.

So heart warming was his experience here in Srirangam that he wanted to give the hand of his daughter to the Lord of Srirangam. This episode of Kulasekara Azhvaar’s daughter being seated alongside Lord Namperumal, the Utsava deity of Lord Ranganatha is played out every year on the occasion of Rama Navami utsavam.
Namperumal made his way to the Arjuna Mandapam at 7.30am on Thursday morning and soon after was joined by Kulasekar Azhvaar’s daughter.

Araiyar Sevai - Kulasekara Azhvaar's Verses
Araiyars led by Araiyar Sampath Kumaran presented these favourite verses of Kulasekara Azhvaar on the Lord of Srirangam much to the delight of the devotees seated in front of and around the Arjuna Mandapam. 

மெய்யில் வாழ்க்கையை 
மெய்யெனக்கொல்லும்
இவ்வையந் தன்னொடும் 
கூடு வதில்லையான்

ஐய்யனே அரங்கா என்று அழைக்கின்றேன்
மையல் கொண்டொழிந்தேன் 
எந்தன் மாலுக்கே 
Namperumal and Sera Kula Valli were then given a sacred bath on yet another hot summer day in Srirangam.

In a rare once in a year opportunity, Sera Kula Valli Nachiyar was all smiles being the Queen of the day. Decked with glittering jewellery and seated alongside Namperumal, she provided a Serthi Sevai at the Arjuna Mandapam.

As the devotees stood in front of the two, one was reminded of the elevation of spirit referred to by Kulasekara Azhvaar in his Perumal Thirumozhi and there seemed to be a mood of true devotion reverberating around the Arjuna Mandapam.

Devotional Tears
While the Chandra Pushkarani, a 100 yards away had dried up, there was no dearth of water around the Arjuna Mandapam for in line with Kulasekara Azhvaar’s praise, tears rolled down the eyes of the devotees much like the flood in times of heavy rains. As they shed tears standing in front of the Lord, one could sense the true love they had and that these devotees were truly experiencing their favourite Lord. 
Ahead of Lord Namperumal’s evening out for the Kodai Utsavam, Sera Kula Valli Nachiyar bid him a sad adieu and one could almost see yet another round of tears, this time rolling out of the eyes of Kulasekara Azhvaar's daughter as she headed back to that remote, usually unseen location at the far and secluded end of the Arjuna Mandapam for yet another year!!!

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