Saturday, August 19, 2017

Chidambaram Thillai Thiru Chitrakoodam

A Temple that testifies, best, the Saivite - Vaishnavite Unity
Devotees are eagerly awaiting the commencement of ‘Brahmotsavam’ Celebrations  at Chidambaram Divya Desam, where 3000 Vedic Seers offered worship everyday in ancient times. Temple Activist Ramesh says No Brahmotsavam is possible for the Divya Desam Lord at Chidambaram as per the Act.

Theerthakar responsibilities @ 15, Inducted into the Board of Trustees @ 18, 70 years of selfless service at this temple, Renovation Support Services to over 50 Divya Desams - ‘If you are straight forward and offer your service to the Lord with Utmost Devotion, people will trust you’ – Prof AV Rangachariar 
84 year old AV Rangachariar (AVR) recites the very first verse of Thiru Mangai Azhvaar’s praise of Chidambaram Divya Desam ( and feeds the early morning devotees with Dhadhyonam after the Thiruppavai Satru Murai, for which he is present every morning, unmindful of his old age. 

‘There is no need to starve and penance when you are here at this Divya Desam. Just offering your sincere prayers to the Lord and Thayar will secure you their blessings.’ And thus he first feeds all those who visit this Divya Desam.

ஊன்வாட உண்ணாது உயிர் காவல் இட்டு
உடலில் பிரியாப் புலன் ஐந்தும் நொந்து
தாம் வாடத் தவம் செய்ய வேண்டா
தமதா இமையோர் உலகு ஆளாகிற்பீர்

கான் ஆட மஞ்சைக் கணம் ஆட மாடே
கயல் ஆடு கால் நீர்ப் பழனம் புடைபோய்த்
தேன் ஆட மாடக்  கொடி ஆடு
தில்லை திருச்சித்ரகூடம் சென்று சேர்மின்களே

Kainkaryam at this Divya Desam since 1948!!!
Similar to Sivaraja Dikshithar, who has spent over 8 decades in Chidambaram, AVR too has spent almost his entire life in and around the huge ‘Twin Temple’ complex at Chidambaram. Unsurprisingly, Saivites and Vaishnavites, alike, have great regard for the contribution he has made to the temple over the last 7 decades or so. 

He was just 15 years old when he took up the responsibilities of the Theerthakar at the Govindaraja Perumal Divya Desam way back in 1948.

He has been an integral part of the Seva Kalam at this Divya Desam ever since. Soon after, he took up the responsibilities for the proper conduct of the round the year Utsavams. By the time he turned 18, he was inducted into the Board of Trustees, one of the youngest to take up such a responsibility in a Divya Desam. 

He was initiated into Divya Prabhandham and Vedic recital very early on in his life by his father Ashtagotam Maha Vidwan Venkatachariar. AVR was immersed in the Vaishnava Sampradaya and learnt the Agamas. He also learnt the Rahasya Granthas, especially of Saint Ramanuja and began presenting Kalakshepams from a very young age.

His father was a revered Acharya at the Vedic Patshala near the temple and several students graduated under him. He served as an acharya till he was 84. The Dikshithars of Chidambaram also learnt from him. He also wrote a Suprabatham for Natarajar. 
Reciting the Thevaram Verses at School!!!
AVR had his primary education at Navalar School. It was the practice there to recite the Thevaram Verses of the great Saivite Poets between 8am and 9am every morning. While being a staunch Vaishnavite,  AVR was ahead of others in the recital of the Thevaram Verses as well.

Father's Devotional Move
As soon as he completed his college education, his father secured him a teaching job at the Annamalai University. His father’s thought process was simple. He wanted his son to perform lifelong service to the Lord of Thillai Thiru Chitrakoodam and believed that a job at the nearby University would facilitate this. 

AVR has been associated with the Annamalai University for over five decades.  While he was an Economics Professor, his proficiency in Tamil and his quest for knowledge led several led other departments to invite him frequently for a ‘Wordly’ lecture to their students. 

Over a period of time, the entire student community of the University became his 'informal' disciples and they would assist him in his renovation Kainkaryam that he performed at various temples across Tamil Nadu over many decades.

And just as the father wished, AVR has performed Kainkaryam here at this Divya Desam for 70 years.

Vaishnavite Agraharam – West Street
His eyes light up as he looks back at the life in and around the temple in the 1930s and 40s ‘The Mela Vaasal was a street where Vaishnavites lived in large numbers. In those days, it was the exclusive domain of the Vaishnavites. But over decades, the numbers have reduced as the Vaishnavites looked for greener pastures and left this temple town.’

Lesson of his Life – Saivite – Vaishnavite Unity
The greatest initiation to him as a school boy from the elders was to have a cordial relationship with the Saivites. For 8 decades, he has followed that early piece of advice he received. Today, as one looks at him from a far corner of the Natarajar Sannidhi, one finds every devotee to the temple paying regards to him with folded hands seeking his blessings. He is the ‘Go-To’ man for them for any help.

He is quite philosophical about this ‘If you are straight forward and offer your service to the Lord with Utmost Devotion, people will trust you.’ Every devotee should endeavour to be true to his/her conscience especially when one encounters difficult situations in life and not swerve from the Dharmic path that God expects the devotee to follow.

Role of the Pothu Dikshithars at this Divya Desam
The keys to the three important entrances to the Divya Desam complex are with the Pothu Dikshithars and hence the service personnel at this Divya Desam are dependent on the Dikshithars for the opening and closing of the Sannidhis. However, over several decades the relationship between the Saivites and Vaishnavites has been very friendly. 

There are times when the Divya Desam Lord comes back late in the night after the procession. During such times, the Dikshithars stay back for the Lord to return before closing the door.

There are also a few other interesting agreements between the two sides. The ‘pathway’ in front of the Natarajar Sannidhi and Govindaraja Perumal Sannidhi ‘belongs’ to both.
No Hundials at the Chidambaram Temple
One of the interesting features of this temple that stands out from all other temples across the State is that there are no Hundials anywhere inside the Temple Complex except the Divya Desam Sannidhi
(which is administered by the HR & CE!!!). Also, there is  no temple office within the complex unlike the HR & CE managed temples in Tamil Nadu where a lot of space is allocated to the office complex!!! 

There are no Salaries to the Pothu Dikshithars.

No Perumal Procession on the Big Festival Days of Natarajar
Also, on the days of the big utsavams for Natarajar, there are no processions for the Divya Desam deities. Processional deity of the Saivite Lord takes precedence over the procession of the Divya Desam Lord/Thayar.

3000 Vedic Seers at this Divya Desam
This is a Divya Desam where over a thousand years ago, 3000 Vedic Seers offered worship every day to Lord Devathi Devan here at Chidambaram as seen from the praise of Thiru Mangai Azhvaar and Kulasekara Azhvaar.

மூவாயிரம் நான்மறையாளர் 
நாளும் முறையால் வணங்க
அணங்கு ஆய சோதித் 
தேவாதிதேவன் திகழ் கின்ற 
தில்லை திருச்சித்ர கூடம் சென்று சேர்மின்களே -Thiru Mangai Azhvaar

The Annual Brahmotsavam expected to be back soon
Through his unflinching efforts over a long period of time, AVR has been able to secure an order from the HR & CE Commissioner to restart the Brahmotsavam at the Divya Desam. Because the Saivite and the Vaishnavite Sannidhis are housed next to each other, the Commissioner directed the Divya Desam authorities to discuss with the Pothu Dikshithars and fix up a suitable date for the Brahmotsavam that will be acceptable to both the sides. Discussions are currently on to agree on a date that will not clash with the Utsavam of the Saivite deity.

செந்தளிர்வாய் மலர் நகை சேர் செழுந்தண் சோலை 
தில்லை நகர் திருச்சித்ர கூடந்  தன்னுள் 

அந்தணர்கள் ஒரு மூவாயிரவர் ஏத்த 
அணிமணி ஆசனத்து இருந்த அம்மான் தானே  - Kulasekara Azhvaar

Temple Activist TR Ramesh, who was involved in the process to secure the Dikshithars the victory in the Supreme Court case says that no new 'Annual' Festivals can be introduced in an ancient temple if that festival was not in order in 1947.  A festival that had not taken place for the last 170 years or so cannot be introduced in this historical temple. 'The HR & CE Commissioner has no legal right to issue such an order' says Ramesh. Hence, the Brahmotsavam in the Divya Desam cannot be introduced now or in the future. Brahmotsavam can take place only for the Saivite Lords at the Chidambaram temple.

Dikshithars carry the Divya Desam Lord during Utsavams 
Except for the Brahmotsavam, the other Utsavams have been celebrated with great devotion at the temple with the Saivites being an integral part. It is the Dikshithars who carry the Utsava deity Lord Parthasarathy on processions. Also, the entire women folks of the Dikshithar family participate in the procession, especially of Thayar.

There is a grand Garuda Sevai procession on the night of Chitra Pournami and on the morning of Vaikasi Visakam.  On the day of the Jeshtabhisekam in Aani and on Panguni Uthiram, the Lord goes around on a procession in the Sesha Vahana.

5 Day trip to Killai for Maasi Magam
On the occasion of Maasi Magam, the Lord goes out on a five day procession to Killai, a village about 10 kms from here.

There are several inscriptions on the huge outer walls dating back a 1000 years providing insights into the contributions to the temples in the centuries gone by.
For his lifetime contribution to the Vaishnavite cause and to the maintenance of several Divya Desams, Rangachari is set to receive LIFCO’s ‘Ramanuja’ Service Award this Sunday (August 20, 2017) at Vani Mahal in Madras, a truly well deserved recognition for a man who has dedicated his entire life to the selfless service of Lord Govindarajan of Chidambaram.
And when the Brahmotsavam Celebrations commence at this Divya Desam, AVR would have had a great role to play in fulfilling the devotees' wishes to witness the annual grand festivities comprising of Vahana Processions and providing them with the sacred opportunity to pull the Chariot around the streets of Thillai Thiru Chitrakoodam.

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