Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Koodal Azhagar Pallandu Utsavam

Centuries ago, after his Victory in the debate, Periyazhvaar went atop the Royal Elephant of Vallabha Deva Pandya around the streets of Madurai in a Grand Celebratory Event, While last evening in this annual enactment  of the legendary episode of 'Pallandu Thodakkam', the great Saint Poet went around Koodal on a broken elephant 

Garudu Sevai Alankaram by 16 year Uppili Srinivas was a refreshing feature of the Utsavam
பேர் அணிந்த வில்லிபுத்தூர் ஆணி தன்னில்
 பெருந் ஜோதி தனில் தோன்றும் பெருமானே
முன் சீர் அணிந்த பாண்டியன் தன் நெஞ்சு தன்னில்
துயக்கற மால் பருத்து வத்தை திருமாசெப்பி

வானர மேல் மதுரை வளம் வரவே
வானில் கருட வாகனமாய்த் தோன்ற
வாழ்த்தும் ஈரணி  பல்லாண்டு முதல் பாட்டு
நானூற்று எழுவத்து ஒன்று இரண்டும் எனக்கு உதவு நீயேVedanta Desikar's praise of Periyazhvaar's Royal Procession

The legendary episode relating to the creation of the first decad of verses in the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham was played out with historical flavour last evening at ‘Mei Kattu Pottal’,  the location of the historical court of Vallabha Deva Pandya, the King of Koodal Nagar.

When Pandya King Vallabha Deva went, incognito, on his usual late night rounds through the streets of Madurai to understand the sentiments of his people, he met with Soma Sarma, a traditional Brahmin who introduced himself as one on a long pilgrimage from Avanti Kingdom.

He surprised the King with his philosophical view on life, one that gave him sleepless nights ‘What we want for a rainy day is saved during good times. What we need for the night is to be earned during the day. Similarly what one wants after death should be accumulated now, in this very life.’ 

Unable to fathom the inner meaning of this, Vallabha Deva summoned his acharya and head priest Periya Nambi seeking an understanding of this statement. A big prize was announced to the one who provided insights into this. Many renowned scholars of the time tried their best but the king was not convinced and the bag of gold coins hung in the balance. 

The Title of Bhattar Piran
Invoking the blessings of Koodal Azhagar, Vishnu Chittar, who was handed out a special invitation having heard of his devotional powers, arrived in the court of Vallabha Deva and presented his views on 'Parathathuvam' that stunned the Pandya King. His description of Lord Narayana as the Supreme Being and his narration of references from the Vedic Scriptures and the suggestion that worshipping him in one’s life time with devotion was the highest form of worship and was likely to lead one  in the direction of what he or she sought after death thrilled Vallabha Deva Pandya.

Even as he was finishing his speech, the golden coins were showered on him, for Vallabha Deva instinctively realised that he had found the ultimate solution.

It was then that Vishnu Chittar was conferred the title of ‘Bhattar Piran’ by Raja Simhan I (Vallabha Deva). Delighted at this, the king ordered a royal procession for Vishnu Chittar around the streets of Madurai. The melodies of musical instruments resonated everywhere and Bhattar Piran was surrounded by a royal retinue with the Pandya king requesting him with open arms to ascend and mount on to the elephant top. 

As he moved along in the procession in a grand celebratory event witnessed by a huge crowd, Vishnu Chittar heard dissenting voices from his detractors. They asked him if the Lord that he referred to was so powerful, would it be in his powers to show them the Lord.

It was then that Bhattar Piran, once again, invoked the blessings of Lord Koodal Azhagar. And shortly after, much to the delight of everyone there, Lord Koodal Azhagar, appeared on his Garuda Vahana from above the Ashtanga Vimana along with Goddess Lakshmi against the back drop of the clear blue sky.

Worried that evil eyes should not fall on this beautiful Lord, seen in this immaculate posture with his beloved Goddess Lakshmi,Vishnu Chittar falling into a trance, showered verses of praise expressing concern for the Lord’s safety using the bell tied to the elephant as his Thaalam. 

16 year old's Garuda Sevai Alankaram
A most refreshing feature of the Pallandu Thodakkam Utsavam at the Koodal Azhagar Divya Desam on the evening of the Pagal Pathu Utsavam was the 2 hour alankaram of Koodal Azhagar by 16 year old Uppili Srinivas, under the able guidance of his father Rajagopalan Bhattar. 
The alankaram was befitting the description given later in the evening at the Mei Kattu Pottal by the descendent of Periyazhvaar who recited the entire puranam relating to this legendary episode. Starting from the attire of Garuda, the Class XI student was meticulous in decorating the Lord paying attention to the minute details of the alankaram.  With an alankaram as beautiful as this and patience he showed in  decking up the Lord gives one hope for the future that the next gen will be involved in the service to the Lord.

Periyazhvaar atop a Broken Elephant
 If the alankaram of Lord Koodal Azhagar atop the Garuda Mount was a delight to the hundreds of devotees who gathered at the Eastern entrance of the temple, the elephant vahana left them worried at the lack of commitment of the HR & CE officials. 
While Periyazhvaar went on this legendary trip around the streets of Madurai on a Royal 'Patta' Elephant, one that was used by Vallabha Pandya alone, the vahana on this evening was seen in a broken state with cracks all over the elephant’s body leaving one saddened with the affairs of the administration.

This episode of ‘Pallandu Thodakkam’ at the Koodal Azhagar Divya Desam on the eve of Pagal Pathu is the only one of its kind in a Divya Desam. And this event dates back to a legendary episode relating to the first decad of the 4000 sacred verses. And yet for this once in year event, one where the elephant is so integral to the festival, the officials have paid scant regard for the importance of the vahana.

All those centuries ago, Periyazhvaar went on a royal elephant while he now goes on a broken elephant in as prominent a Divya Desam as Koodal Azhagar, in the heart of Madurai.
Starting at 8pm, led by Periyazhvaar atop the white elephant, Koodal Azhagar made his way to Mei Kattu Pottal, the historical location of the legendary episode. It is the state of the modern times that even during this once in a year one of its kind utsavam, Periyazhvaar and Koodal Azhagar were separated by town buses plying on the Netaji Road!!!

In a devotional tone, Veda Piran Bhattar, the descendant of Periyazhvaar, decked in a beautiful cone like blue cap on his head and a cymbal in his hand, presented the ‘Pallandu Puranam’ starting with the hereditary description of Vallabha Deva and his forefathers followed by the specifics of this episode that led to Periyazhvaar’s Pallandu Praise on the Lord of Koodal.
On sighting the Lord in the high air, verses poured out instantly and he sung for the Lord’s long life. It is the only set of verses among the 4000 verses where an Azhvaar has sung benedictory hymns of the Lord.

Periyazhvaar suggests to the devotees who live with the only desire of serving the Lord to carry immediately talc paste and those with fragrances. He asks them to resist worldly pleasures and to come together as true devotees letting go vain glory and to sing the sacred mantra. 

Periyazhvaar says that it is important for us to give up our old bad habits and to connect with the Lord. He cautions that no one whose thoughts are just on food shall be allowed here. He wants all of us to continuously utter the 1000 names of the Lord and sing benedictory praise wishing for his long life.

It was seen as so sacred that Thiru Pallandu became the first decad of the Naalayira Divya Prabhandham.

This historical utsavam ended with ‘Pallandu Thodakkam’ – the adyapakas presenting the entire first decad of the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham at Mei Kattu Pottal in front of Koodal Azhagar. Being the location of Pallandu, this utsavam of ‘Pallandu Thodakkam’ is unique to this Divya Desam. 

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