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 (, 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, ( 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

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