Thursday, June 29, 2017

Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Renovation Issues

‘The request for repair works of the Moolavar idol came from the decades long Archakars. The Sthalathars and Theerthakars not only approved of the need to conduct repairs, they also inspected and approved the quality of the work - Pon Jayaraman, JC, Srirangam Temple

'All repair works done as per Agama Sastras and in line with keeping the heritage structure intact'

'All one needs to remember is that Periya Perumal is keeping a watch on each one of us - the devotees, the officials, the service personnel' 
Ever since the biggest renovation exercise seen at the Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, one that was completed in late 2015, there have been many questions raised. I worked on this story over a long 18 month period tracking each of the Sannidhis at the temple, speaking to thousands of devotees who are regulars to the temple, some for several decades, interacting with archakars in many different sannidhis to get their view on the huge restoration exercise. 

Having myself been a regular at the temple for over four decades, this was easily the best renovation exercise in almost half a century in terms of devotional experience. Many of the Sannidhis that had remained largely closed for decades are now fully functional.  The pathway to the 1000 Pillared Mandapa from the Thayar Sannidhi too had remained dysfunctional for decades. That has been completely cleaned up and for the last year and a half it has been refreshing for the devotees to explore that path.

In the 1970s and 80s, a devotee could stand in front of the Moolavar for as long as he or she wished. There were times in those decades when local residents would revisit the Moolavar several times in a day. This continued to be the case even in the early 90s.

However, that has changed dramatically over the last decade or two with the devotee crowd increasing manifold, from the hundreds to several thousands on each of the weekdays. On Friday and over the weekend, one’s prayers is restricted to a few seconds at the Moolavar Sannidhi, such is the size of the crowd. The days of multiple visits are behind us. In such times, it is but natural to create convenient pathways for devotees to make it an easier devotional experience.

Crowd Management on Panguni Uthiram
The darshan of the divine couple on the occasion of Panguni Uthiram is a prime case in point. Over the last decade, many different crowd management models have been tried out but most have not work out. Given a 12 hour time frame and a crowd of 50000+, one has to find practical solutions to assist peaceful entry for darshan and a safe exit, for there are thousands of senior citizens who too make it on this day. 
It is important to remember that the temples here are one of devotional experience and hence LIVE monuments. There is a certain devotional fervour to the visits, especially of some of the renowned ancient temples.  Hence while some newer 'exit' paths are created, in such large temples with such a huge rush on certain festive occasions, such decisions have become a reality.

Sacred Verses off in a Sannidhi
In another Sannidhi, a couple of sacred verses that had been inscribed from decades ago had to make way during the renovation. It is a devotional loss to the devotees but in the larger scheme of things, one had to accept some of these losses for the larger good of the temple.

No more going around the inner prakara
Decades ago, it was a great experience to go around the inner prakara including through the Kili Mandapa. Unfortunately given the huge crowds that one now witnesses even on week days, it is a challenge to allow entry and exit through the eastern side of the inner prakara. It is a bit saddening as a devotee of not being able to do what one did for several decades but for most devotees this is quite understandable as there are on the ground practical challenges relating to managing the huge crowds these days and hence certain restrictions such as these actually help in larger interests of a peaceful and safe darshan.
Clarification on the Moolavar Idol of Lord Ranganatha
Given the many different comments that have been spread around relating to renovation of moolavar idol of Lord Ranganatha, I raised the issue with the HR & CE and sought the official story and their version posing a number of questions. 

Shri. Pon Jayaraman, the Joint Commissioner of the Srirangam temple is communicative, easily accessible and provides a hearing to all those who want to share information or raise temple related issues with him. 

It may not be possible to keep all the devotees happy at all times but he surely has put in an effort to action every positive suggestion given by the devotees at the temple. There may still be many wrongs taking place at this huge temple. And he in many of the discussions I have had has promised time and again to try his best to solve the issues relating to the devotees and to give them the best possible devotional experience at the temple.

In an Exclusive response to prtraveller’s detailed questions about the perceived replacement of the moolavar idol (in parts), the HR & CE has said that the entire renovation of the temple in 2015 has taken place in an open and transparent manner and without any damaging any structure in the temple.

Repair Works of the Moolavar Idol
Pon Jayaraman said that it was the several decades experienced Archakars of the temple who had initially brought some of the challenges, relating to the Moolavar idol, to the notice of the HR & CE and requested them formally to inspect the idol and take corrective measures (a copy of this letter dating back to Sept 2015 is available with this writer).

Further to this request, a meeting of the Sthalathars, Archakars and Kainkaryapakas took place in the same month and a decision was taken with the consent of all concerned to inspect and undertake repair works of the Moolavar idol. The written consent for this was also obtained from Sri Ranga Narayana Jeer in addition to the others mentioned above ( a copy of this too is available with this writer). 
Pon Jayaraman, who oversaw the repair works at the temple says, with a devotional authority, that almost defies the personality of a typical HR & CE official ‘Only those parts that were referred to by the archakars were touched upon.  In the entire renovation activity across the temple, I can say with devotional truth that we have ensured that the heritage aspects are protected and none of the structures or idols have been altered anywhere.’

He adds, something very rarely heard from a HR & CE official ‘Do not forget that Periya Perumal is watching me from a distance of a few hundred yards every day of my stint here. Any one, be it a devotee or an official or a service personnel, who acts against the wishes of the Lord here cannot escape the fury of the mighty Lord.’

It is particularly pleasing to hear a Joint Commissioner repeatedly remark about ‘the importance of devotional truth and how no one who conducts himself against the Lord’s interest at this temple is likely to be spared.’

'There has been not an inch of activity that has taken place during the renovation that was against the Agama Sastra' he says, once again bringing a devotional touch to the conversation.

He points out that neither the hand nor the leg has been replaced as has been made out to be by people working against the interest of the temple.

'During the period of the repairs, the Sthalathar and Theerthakar of the temple conducted two inspections and were fully satisfied that the works were carried out as per the agamas and recorded this with the HR & CE at that time.' (a copy of this statement too is available with this writer)

Best Renovation Initiative in their life time
Multiple archakars, each with decades of service at this temple, spoken to over the last 18 months state that this has been the best restoration they had seen in their lifetime of service and that it was unlikely that such a restoration effort was possible again in the foreseeable future. ‘Given the size of the temple and the number of sannidhis involved, this was an effort that is unlikely to be replicated in another temple of this size’ says a Bhattar who has been at the temple for over two decades and who also performs  service at an independent sannidhi inside the temple. Of course, these Bhattars also spoke about additional things that they would have liked to have been done in different Sannidhis. For example, the Madapalli work in one of the Sannidhis remains incomplete to this day but they are of the view that smaller issues of this nature was always likely when there is a renovation of this magnitude and are hence hoping that such minor pending issues will be completed in course of time.
The truth is there for all to see. Those who have been regulars to the temple and who have seen the temple and the Lord for decades know what a transformative change it has been at the temple in the last couple of years. 

In this blog, there have been several stories written on issues relating to HR & CE and Divya Desam temples across Tamil Nadu. A huge temple such as the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam will continue to have different kinds of issues on an ongoing basis. One can only hope that the authorities will keep taking proactive measures to better the devotional experience for the visitors to the temple. 

As crowd swells in the face of this new devotional wave that is sweeping TN temples, newer challenges will continue to arise and hopefully each of these will be looked into and solved in the best interest of the devotees. 

And here at this temple in Srirangam, with an Executive Officer whose doors are always open for devotees, there is always an opportunity for devotees to share their grievances and to find an acceptable solution to the problems. And that is a step in the right direction, one that other HR &CE officials across the temples in TN would do well to emulate.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ramaswamy Temple Thiru Kudanthai

Vasantha Utsavam revived after 50 years 
At a time when there are issues relating to the halting of the Brahmotsavam at the Sowri Raja Perumal Divya Desam in Thiru Kannapuram, a Bhattar's pro active initiative has helped revive the historic Vasantha Utsavam at the ancient Ramaswamy temple in Thiru Kudanthai after a lapse of nearly half a century. In 1968, with financial crisis striking many a temple after the entry of the HR & CE, the Vasantha Utsavam along with the then vibrant Adyayana Utsavam came to a halt at this temple, where Rama is seen with Sita in a Pattabhisheka posture flanked by Lakshmana who is holding Rama’s bow and waiting for his brother’s orders. Baratha is seen holding a brass umbrella over Rama, almost as to protect him from the hot sun while Shatrughna is seen fanning Rama. Hanuman is holding a Veena with one hand and reading the Ramayana with the other, not seen in any other temple.

The Entire Story of Ramayana
One of the highlights of the Ramaswamy temple is the exquisite depiction in a three layer format of the entire Ramayana story on the walls of the prakara.  Inside the temple, there are several stone sculptures depicting historical events in a very artistic form. Some of the sculptures include Trivikrama Avatara, Sugreeva and Vibheshana Pattabhisheka, Sita Kalyana and Ahalya Saabha Vimochana.

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 gave the divine couple a lot of happiness. Legend has it that one used to perform Jothista Homam said to help in attaining moksham, 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 the divine couple during this festival will find a new sense of happiness.
Earlier this month, Soundara Raja Bhattar, who has been at the temple for over three decades and whose father had performed service here for almost three decades, was listening to an upanyasam from the Ramayana.

He jumped up when he heard a reference to the divine couple Rama and Sita enjoying themselves in Ekantham in the forest amidst the beautiful groves with a cool breeze sweeping across them and fragrant flowers providing them with a sweet scent. The words described in the Aranya Kaandam were ‘Vasantha Vihaaram.’ It struck him that this temple had not seen the Vasantha Utsavam for several decades even though it had been an integral part of the annual calendar till 1968 and that it could not be continued for paucity of funds in the late 60s and 70s.

As is the case with most of the temples these days, the Bhattar had to also find a donar to fund the entire Utsavam for the HR & CE does not spend on organizing festivals!!

Soundara Raja Bhattar approached the auditor, whose inspiring Upanyasam had been the reason for the revival thought to occur to him. While the devotee agreed to take care of the entire expenses, an utsavam ‘fee’ had to be paid to the HR & CE to organize the utsavam.

Revived on the Punarvasu day in Aani
And thus after almost five decades, a three day Vasantha Utsavam began on the Punarvasu day this Aani (Sunday June 25). Similar to that description in the Aranya Kaandam, the divine couple came out on a procession, with the tall coconut groves seen on the three sides of the outer prakara waving their branches as if in happiness of seeing the divine couple and almost in a welcoming gesture of having once again agreed to be present beneath the groves through the evening.
Very few devotees had witnessed the previous Vasantha Utsavam at this temple way back in the 1960s and they were delighted that they could have darshan of Rama and Sita out in the open for over two hours. This is the only utsavam at the Ramaswamy temple where the two are seen amidst the groves for this length of time.

Kalyana Kolam/ Rajathi Raja Kolam
On day two on Monday evening, Rama and Sita came out in a beautiful Kalyana Kolam while on the final evening ( June 27), it was the ‘Rajathi Raja’ Kolam with Rama in a majestic posture holding a bow in his left hand and arrow in his right while sporting a tall crown. The beautiful alankaram of the two presented by Soundara Raja Bhattar left everyone delighted and 100s of devotees stayed back well past 9.30 pm to enjoy this devotional experience that they had hitherto not seen in their life time at this temple.
Bharatanatyam/Flute Recital / Nadaswaram Kutcheri
At the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam, 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.

Here too, at the Ramaswamy temple, adding to the visual treat on the first evening of the Vasanthotsavam was a special 90minute Bharatanatyam presentation by a 10 member group. On the 2nd evening was a flute recital by a young boy and on the final evening, a 10 member Nadaswaram group presented a lively kutcheri. 
Once again it has been a proactive initiative of a Bhattar and a subsequent agreement to fund the utsavam that has led to the revival of the Vasantha Utsavam at this temple.

However, as has been the case in recent times, the HR & CE that administers the temple did not contribute a single rupee to the three day utsavam.

Quite a time we live in!! The bhattar revives, organizes and secures the funding for the utsavam that had come to a halt after HR & CE came into force.  While they should have actually contributed to the revival, they had to be paid a ‘festival’ fee.

Kudos though to the bhattar for having revived a festival after a gap of five decades.It is hoped he will be able to revive the Adyayana Utsavam as well.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Poochatru Utsavam Srirangam

A heavily weighing ‘Dhindu Thaavadam, Pushpa Duppatti’ and a fragrant Panneer on Lord Namperumal on the occasion of the annual ‘Festival of Flowers’ makes it a colourful and devotional event in the calendar of festivals at the Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam

A daily three hour long process, the special art of making the heavy and colourful Garland has been assigned to the Saathaatha Vaishnavas housed in the Saathara Veethi 
Vaishnavite Saint Poet Periyazhvaar has dedicated an entire decad of verses in the Periyazhvaar Thirumozhi praising the favourite flowers of the Lords in different Divya Desams. In one of the verses, Periyazhvaar lures the Lord of Srirangam, whom he describes as one seen in a Sleeping Posture, he refers to Iruvatchi flowers.


ஆமாறு அறியும் பிரானே
அணி அரங்கத்தே கிடந்தாய்
ஏமாற்றம் என்னைத் தவிர்ந்தாய்
இருவாட்சிப் பூச்சூட்ட வாராய்

After ten long days in Chitrai when Lord Namperumal has been out in the hot sun in Chitrai with daily processions in the morning and evening as part of the Brahmotsavam Celebrations and with an intention to cool him from the summer heat, a 10 day festival of flowers is celebrated at the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam. Each evening of the festival, Lord Namperumal makes his way to the Manal Veli near the Eastern entrance, where he is decked with at least six different varieties of flower garlands specially made for the occasion by skilful artistes housed on the Sathara Street. 
Sathatha Vaishanavas (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2014/12/saathaatha-vaishnavas-saathaanis.html), the clan assigned by Saint Ramanuja to perform various services at the temple have also been assigned the task of making the exclusive summer garland for Namperumal on each of the days of the Poochatru Utsavam. It is also the period of 10 days which are one of the most difficult for the Sri Patham Thangis, the carriers of the Lord on the shoulders, (http://prtraveller.blogspot.in/2017/04/sri-patham-thangis-srirangam.html) for they stand in the Manal Veli for over two hours with the heavily weighing garland draped on Lord Namperumal

Referred to as Pushpa Duppati, the special garland on the occasion of Poochatru Utsavam, involving a special skill and an artistic touch, takes at least three hours to design and create. For over 7 decades Saathaatha Srinivasan had involved himself in this exercise during the summer month presenting the Poochatru Utsavam garland first to Namperumal, followed a week later to Ranganayaki Thayar in the week long utsavam dedicated to her.

Periyazhvaar’s Praise and the Malligai Flowers
The first step in the process is to create a Shakkonam – squared boxes measuring 8columns x 20 rows, by knotting these using a banana stem on a 7feet long 4 feet wide rectangular rod. Over 6kgs of Malligai flowers are spread across this and knotted on a banana thread. 
Praising the Lord of Thiru Venkatam, Periyazhvaar referes to Malligai flowers

திரு உடையாள் மணவாளா
திருவரங்கத்தே  கிடந்தாய்
மருவி மம்ண கமழ்கின்ற
மல்லிகை பூச்சூட்ட வாராய்’

Designing the Garland with Marikozhunthu
Once the Malligai Garland is designed, the artistes focus on designing the border on all the four sides.  
On most days of the Poochatru utsavam, they design the border with Marikozhunthu flowers while on days these are in short supply Tulasi is used on all the sides for a more simplistic border design. With the basic Malligai garland and the border design in place, they get on to the process of adding six different varieties of flowers on to the garland. 2-3 artistes are seen at work each focusing on one aspect of the design and at different corners of the garland. 
Through this decad of verses, Periyazhvaar refers to flowers such as Shenbagam, Shenkalunir, Kurukatti, Punnai, Lotus, Davanam, Maruvu and Jasmine. In line with this praise, different varieties of flowers are spread each day on the Malligai garland and knotted at appropriate places to give it a colourful and devotional touch.

நிச்சிலும் தீமைகள் செய்வாய் 
நீள் திருவேங்கடத்து எந்தாய் 
பச்சைத் தமனகத்தோடு 
பாதிரிப் பூச்சூட்ட வாராய் 
Pushpa Duppati 
This Pushpa Duppati is brought by Sathatha Vaishnava from the Sathara Street (housing the wholesale flower market of Srirangam) to the Manal Veli to the loud beating of drums.
On the occasion of Poochatru Utsavam, a Dhindu Thaavadam – similar to an ornamental necklace is first presented to Lord Namperumal. This garland is light on the two sides and heavy in the centre with flowers in the middle made similar to a chest pathakam.

Atop the Dhindu Thaavadam, the Lord is draped with a Pushapa Duppati, 3 different flower garlands one after another. A small dose of Panneer is then splashed on the Lord to create a sweet fragrance all around him in the Manal Veli.

Sri Patham Thangis and their Devotion
Given the weight of the flower garlands, this is one of the most difficult utsavams for the Sri Patham Thangis of Srirangam for they stand at the Manal Veli Mandapam carrying the Lord on their shoulders from that stationary position for over two hours. 
Also, this fortnight (Perumal and Thayar Poochatru) following the Chitrai Brahmotsavam is one that showcases the devotional touch of the Sri Patham Thangis, for without the slightest twinge in their eyebrows they use this as an opportunity to hold the Lord happily on their shoulder. At the end of the 10 day Utsavam, the shoulder of each of these Sri Patham Thangis is seen with big bruises swollen red like a cricket ball. 

Presented to Azhvaars and Acharyas
Unlike other Utsavams, this set of flower garlands is presented as prasadam to Azhvaars and Acharyas at the end of each day’s event as against the usual procedures of presenting/ handing over to the devotee donor.


அள்ளி நீ வெண்ணை விழுங்க
அஞ்சாது அடியேன் அடித்தேன்
தெள்ளிய நீரில் எழுந்த

செங்கழுநீர் சூட்ட வாராய்

Friday, June 23, 2017

Sarangapani Koil Thiru Kudanthai

Unique Incentive by the trustees to the Sri Patham Thangis in the 1950s and 60s
84 year old Sounder Desikachariyar has been performing Thiru Aradhana at the temple for the last three decades to keep the tradition going 

The hand of the Bhattar would swell placing the Shatari multiple times in the day
on 200 Vedic and Prabhandham Scholars, half a century ago
In the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham, Nam Azhvaar praises Thiru Kudanthai as a location where paddy grew in abundance aided by the fertile waters. The Lord was surrounded by huge stone walls. Large lotuses were seen all around Thiru Kudanthai. 
ஆரா அமுதே அடியேன் உடலம்  நின்பால் அன்பாயே
நீராய்  அலைந்து கரைய உருக்குகின்ற நெடுமாலே
சீர் ஆர் செந்நெல் கவரி வீசும் செழு நீர் திரு குடந்தை
ஏர் ஆர் கோலம் திகழ கிடந்தாய் கண்டேன் எம்மானே  - Thiruvoimozhi ( 5-8-1)

He saw people of extremely good qualities around the temple (நலத்தால் மிக்கார் குடந்தை கிடந்தாய்)

Thiru Mangai Azhvaar too praises the place as one abound with greenery (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2017/06/thiru-ezhu-kootrirukkai_22.html).

Big Agraharam, hundreds of Vedic Scholars, Devotional People
Just over half a century ago, this ancient description by the Saint Poets still seemed to hold good. There was an agraharam right opposite the Eastern Entrance with about 30 traditional families residing there. There were 200 scholars presenting Veda Parayanam and Divya Prabhandham recital on big festive occasions. Villagers walked from distant locations to be present for the big chariot festival.Leading into Thiru Kudanthai, one found greenery all around. 

The priests of Thiru Kudanthai lived in a huge extended joint family that sometimes went up to 40 members. No salary was paid to the service personnel at the temple. They just received rice as the daily prasadam. That was sort of their only 'financial' remuneration. And yet they lived a contented and happy life.  

Among the three large Vaishnavite temples in Kumbakonam, the Vaishnavites took care of the Sarangapani Koil, the Sourashtrians the Ramaswamy temple and the Madhwas took care of the Utsavams at the Chakrapani temple.

7Decades of dedicated Service at the temple
Sounder Desikachariyar is 84 years old and a fragile figure now. Inside that lean body is a mentally strong personality, one that has been totally dedicated to Lord Aravamudhan of Thiru Kudanthai for almost the entire period of his life. 
For the last three decades, he has been performing Thiru Aradhanam at the Vedantha Desikar Sannidhi at this Divya Desam and is there early, every morning, unmindful of the scorching summer’s heat and overcoming the challenges relating to old age. He is one of the last remaining members of the Prabhandham Ghosti at the temple. He is also the one who has been assigned the rights for first Theertham at the temple by Patrachariar descendents.

Desikachariyara grew up right in front of the Sarangapani temple and spent his childhood days in a devotional way at the temple in the 1930s and 40s. There were at least 30 traditional families along the Eastern entrance to the temple with whom he enjoyed a great traditional childhood.

His father was a Sanskrit Shiromani and well versed in the Vedas. Sounder Desikachariyar looks at those days in the middle of the previous century as one of great joy ‘Devotion was at its very best with devotees committed to serving with utmost sincerity. For each of the Pancha Parva Utsavam procession every month, devotees would walk all the way from the neighbouring villages to be part of the festivities. For the annual Brahmotsavam, which was celebrated in a grand way, devotees would swarm in large groups from as far away as Papanasam, Thiru Nageswaram and Kottayur walking all the way to the temple along with their entire family.’

Ayya Kumar Desikar's Contribution to the temple
In the 16th Century AD, Navalpakkam Ayya Kumar Thatha Desikar, a renowned Chaturveda Scholar and a vidwan at the court of the Thanjavur king ensured that the vedic chanting continued for the coming centuries advocating total devotion to the Lord and laying importance on the Vedic and Prabhandham recital at the temple. It was also he who helped recover some of the lost idols and installed it at the temple. He is also credited with having created the Komalavalli Thayar Sannidhi in its current form.

In recognition of his contribution, there is a separate sannidhi for Ayya Kumar Desikar at this temple, opposite the Thayar Sannidhi.

The Thanjavur king who had the first rights of ‘mariyathai’ during festive occasions assigned the rights to Ayya Kumar Desikar which has then over the centuries passed on to the Patrachariar descendants.

Trustees managed the temple – A special incentive
In those decades over half a century ago, the temple comprised of 5 trustees and they managed the Utsavams well during those decades. There were 16 Sri Patham Thangis who committed themselves to carrying the Lord on their shoulders on all the utsavams including the big Vahana processions during Brahmotsavam. 
On the occasion of the Brahmotsavam and during the Margazhi festival, the temple reverberated with Vedic chants and prabhandham recital. There were at least 100 scholars on each of these fronts. Veda Parayanam and Divya Prabhandham Ghosti would compete with each other on the devotional front. Not a single rupee was paid to any of them and they just lived a life full of devotion.

There was a unique incentive in those days from the trustees of the temple to keep our tradition going. Those who presented themselves in Pancha Kacham and 12 Thiruman to carry the Lord were given double the quantity of rice on that day.

Shatari on 200 heads on multiple occasions each day
Soundara Raja Bhattar, now into his late 40s is one of the well respected Bhattars at the Sarangapani temple for he is well versed in the agamas having learnt from the then revered 70 year old Raghunatha Sharma in Thiru Kudanthai. The Bhattar who has performed arathana at this temple for over three decades counts learning under this great guru as one of the greatest blessings of his life. 
His father L Srinivasa Bhattachar (Chellappa) too had performed selfless service at this temple for almost three decades through the 1960s and 70s without a salary before collapsing one day at the Chakrapani Sannidhi and meeting with an untimely death when Soundara Raja Bhattar was just 9 years old. On non festival days, Chellappa Bhattar would rarely get any Thattu Kaasu.

Soundara Raja Bhattar recounts the tale of how his father would come back with a swollen hand  on many days ‘My father’s hand would end up swollen as he had to place the Shatari on 200 heads in a most traditional way on multiple occasions each day during these festivals.’

It was not like the current period when Bhattars rush through the Shatari process in a matter of minutes almost as an exercise to complete.

90 kgs rice to the Service Personnel
The huge Uthana Sayana Lord, seen in a beautiful slightly raised sleeping posture is 15 feet plus in length.  Hence 15 kgs of rice had to be presented to him for each of the poojas in the day in line with the agamas which Rice had to be presented to the Lord on the basis of one kg per foot, as per the agamas. And 6 time pooja each day meant 90 kgs of rice was presented to the Lord. 'The service personnel that totalled close to 50 had no salary. We simply shared the ‘rice’ offering every day amongst us.'

The Big Chariot Festival
The Chariot at the Sarangapani Temple in Thiru Kudanthai counts among the biggest the TN temples. Back then in the 1960s, big drum beating in all the nearby villages, a few days ahead of the Chariot festival would serve as an invitation to the villagers to participate in the festival and to help pull the chariot around the four big streets. Villagers in several thousands would gather at the temple the previous night.

100 Bags of rice for a Single Day Utsavam
At the Ramaswamy temple, half a km South of the Sarangapani temple,the Moopanar family who belong to this region presented 100 bags of rice  on the fifth day of the Rama Navami Utsavam, when the Lord comes out on his favourite Hanumantha Vahana, Dhadhyonam was presented in large quantities to every single devotee at the temple. This tradition went on for several years.

For decades, the traditional families had lived in happiness spending a lot of their lives in chanting praise of the Lord.

And then the exodus away from Thiru Kudanthai
Into the 1960s, the real exodus of the traditionalists began to happen. And this continued well into the 70s. With HR & CE slowly gaining a stranglehold on temples in Tamil Nadu and with new land ceiling act coming into play, the traditional residents lost out. In a drastic fall in presentation of prasadam to the Lord, 90 kgs of rice for each Kaalam that was shared by the archakas and parijarakas came down to a total of just 10 kgs for the day. This had a direct negative impact on the state of their lives.

A number of the traditional residents sold their lands in frustration and went away seeking greener pastures. Veda Parayanam that was 100 members strong at this temple dwindled to nil. Prabhandham Ghosti now comprises of a team in single digit in this historic temple down from the 100s. For real big occasions, like a Samprokshanam, experts are roped in from across the state. But otherwise the year long utsavams wear no resemblence to what it was half a century ago. 

Lord on Wheels
The Sri Patham Thangis who had for long been traditional in their attire and conduct are no more to be found.  Lord is now carried on wheels and not on shoulders on most festive occasions around the four big streets.

Income to the HR & CE, Expenses to the Devotees!!!
Once the HR & CE took complete control, the expenses relating to the temple and the conduct of the festivals began to be completely passed on to the devotees as against the centuries' long practice of  the temple conducting it jointly with the support of the devotees (the original concept of ‘Ubayam’ – one of doing jointly). 

‘Ubayam’ (like Ubaya Nachiyar) referred to twin i.e a combination of temple and the devotees, but this was given a new definition under the HR & CE rule.  Today, all the income (which too is provided by the devotees) is taken away by the HR & CE while the expenses are almost completely funded by the devotees.

Housed between two rivers, Cauvery and Arasalaru, the Sarangapani temple has the maximum number (after Srirangam and Tirupathi) of Azhvaars (7 of them) singing praise of Lord Aravamudhan.   After listening to the Tamil hymn 'Aaravamudhe’  composed by Nam Azhvaar, Vaishnavite savant Natha Muni wanted to listen to the entire Naalaayira Divya Prabandham (4000 hymns) and was directed by Lord Aaravamudhan to Azhvaar Tirunagari to compile the works of the Divya Prabandham. Hence this temple is credited with having shown the direction for the revival of the sacred verses. Will the traditionalists come back to this ancient temple town and will the temple reverberate once again with Vedic Chants and Prabhandham recital? 

Will the HR & CE participate financially in the conduct of the Utsavams and the daily poojas in the true meaning of 'Ubayam' or will more and more hundials be placed inside the temple?

Early construction of the temple took place in the 7th Century AD by the famous Pallava King Mahendra Varma while improvements were made later by the Cholas and the Vijayanagara Kings.

There are several hundreds of inscriptions dating back to this period including on the walls of the Komalavalli Thayar Sannidhi. Some of these, it is believed have not yet been deciphered. Sounder Desikachariyar is hopeful of ASI taking steps to bring out a booklet on the inscriptions relating to the temple so the devotees get insights into the contributions made by the legendary kings and the traditions that were followed during that period.

Seeing the sleeping posture of the Lord, a curious Thiru Mazhisai Azhvaar questioned if his tiredness (having fought the battle in Lanka) was the reason for him to be lying down thus. After hearing this, it is believed that the Lord slightly raised his posture to greet the Azhvaar. Feeling the guilt of having caused strain on the Lord, ThiruMazhisai  Azhvaar asked him to remain as is. And the Lord remained so ever after. 

The main sanctum has been conceived like a chariot with wheels drawn by horses and elephants and is truly a splendid sight to watch.