Friday, November 10, 2017

Azhagar Koil Nupura Ganga Utsavam

Kallazhagar went up the hilly terrain last week for the Thailakappu Utsavam at Nupura Gangai

An Inscription on the wall between the Perumal and Thayar Sannidhi of the Thiru Maliruncholai Divya Desam in the outskirts of Madurai refers to an undertaking during the coronation ceremony of Sundara Pandyan that he would continue the ‘Thalai Aruvi’ Utsavam and that if he did not it would amount to killing a 1000 sacred cows, testifying that the one of its kind festival at Nupura Ganga (Silambaru) is a historical one.
Vaishnavite Saint Poet Periyazhvaar in the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham says that Pandya King Nedumaran of Koodal came to Thiru Maliruncholai in a thanking gesture to the Lord and to celebrate his victory. Those who visited the Lord at Thiru Maliruncholai and invoked his blessings before an event always returned with victory and came back to thank the Lord. And hence he describes it as a VICTORY HILL.

கொல் நவில் கூறவேற் கோன்
நெடுமாறன் தென் கூடற் கோன்
தென்னன் கொண்டாடும்
தென் திரு மாலிருஞ் சோலையே

Periyazhvar had a special liking for the Lord of Thiru Maliruncholai and provides insights into this place, with repeated references to Nupur Ganga and its greatness. Celestial girls came all the way to bathe in Nupur Ganga that flowed down from the Thiru Malirun Cholai hills. He praises Nupur Ganga as producing sacred water.

The Kalpataru flowers in heaven are filled with nectar like fragrance. He compares that to Nupur Ganga which he praises as having this fragrance of nectar. 
Legendary Episode
Legend has it that while measuring the world during his Trivikrama Avatara, Lord Narayana’s feet stretched to Brahmma Logam where a delighted Brahmma poured the sacred water on the Silambu / Nupuram worn by the Lord on his feet. This sacred water poured from the Lord’s feet to this place in Thiru Maliruncholai on Sukla Paksha Dwadasi in Aipasi.

In celebration of this legendary episode, Lord Kallazhagar, the Utsava deity of Azhagar Koil, makes an annual trip up the hilly terrain to Nupura Ganga on this day every year in Aipasi for the Thailakappu and Neerattam Utsavam.

This event was enacted last Tuesday (Nov 1) at Thiru Maliruncholai Malai, a hill that Periyazhvaar refers to as one with thousands of lakes and flower groves and where the Lord is reclining with a thousand arms and a thousand crowns on the serpent with a thousand hoods. There is a rock carving atop the Nupura Ganga of the Lord in a Sayana Kolam on a huge Serpant.

ஆயிரம் தோல் பரப்பி முடி ஆயிரம் மின்னிலக
ஆயிரம் பைந்தலைய அனந்தசயனன் ஆளும் மலை
 ஆயிர  மாருகளும் கணைகள் பலவாயிரமும்
  
A long day at the Azhagar Malai 
Led by the temple elephant and accompanied by the beating of the sacred drum, Lord Kallazhagar began his trip at 9.30 am from his abode at Azhagar Koil.
For the next two hours, he waded his way through a rough and dense thicket up the Azhagar Malai carried by the Sri Patham Thangis on a palanquin.

Periyazhvaar described Thiru Maliruncholai as home to huge elephants that make their way into the forest in large numbers as a herd. The Wild elephants are seen chasing helpless cows into the forest of Thiru Maliruncholai. Even as late as the 1970s and 80s, the priests had such ‘wild’ experiences during this annual trip of the Lord in Aipasi.

The man performing the service of carrying the sacred umbrella ahead of the Lord has seen it all for he and his father have been performing this for the last six decades. While the path is relatively better now, it was not the case in the decades gone by. And it was quite a strenuous trip up the hill with most ending up with bleeding feet but they did it all with devotion to the Lord of Thiru Maliruncholai.
Oil Anointment and Combing of the Lord's Hair
Kallazhagar reached Nupura Ganga at around 11. 30 am. At the specially decorated mandapa, ‘alankara specialist’ Ambi Narayanana Bhattar, whose forefathers have presented the alankara to the Lord on this day over the last century delighted the devotees with a devotional display of oil anointment of the Lord followed by the patient combing off the long Oily hair that sent the devotees into happy tears. 

Big Moment of the Utsavam
In line with Periyazhvaar’s praise of Silambaru as an ‘eternal water spring’, water gushes down the slope to Azhagar Koil from Nupura Ganga all through the year without a break, quite a unique feature of this location. The sacred moment of the Utsavam came when Lord Kallazhagar, with the devotees all around shouting out his name in rapturous delight, was led to Silambaru, where he had a ‘direct’ bath from the spring, the only one of its kind in a Divya Desam. 
Periyazhvaar’s praise of Silambaru
Periyazhvaar says that devotees came from towns and villages to take a holy dip in Nupura Ganga in an effort to rid themselves of the sins. And when Ambi Bhattar splashed this holy water on the devotees they were reminded of Periyazhvaar’s verse and their face brightened up and they seemed to be gripped with an elated feeling of devotion.


After a long day out at the top of Thiru Maliruncholai Malai, the Lord returned to his abode at Azhagar Koil late in the evening once again passing through the thick bushes and the rocky terrain.

(A version of this story featured today in The Hindu Friday Review) 

1 comment:

markiv said...

I am regularly reading your blog posts on Sri Vaishnava temples and related topics. Great reads, keep it up. Regards, Vikram