Saturday, January 27, 2018

Srirangam Bhoopathi Thirunal Garuda Sevai

Lord Namperumal provided a Grand darshan on the New Golden Garuda Vahana at Veereswaram while the devotees’ hands went up in Unison with the Smart Phone to shoot his picture!!!

The Garuda Vahana was still being anointed with Gold at 5pm inside the Ranganatha temple, the authorities then did a photo shoot with the new Vahana delaying the start of the procession at Veereswaram by 45 minutes.

Garuda then watched helplessly as the Lord passed by defunct Indian Styled Toilets on Uthira Streets 
It was the fourth day of the over 500 years old Thai Bhoopathi Thirunaal Utsavam at the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam. And the day of the recital of Thirumazhisai Azhvaar’s Naanmugan Thiruvanthathi.

நான்முகனை நாராயணன் படைத்தான்
நான்முகனும் தான் முகமாய்
சங்கரனை தான் படைத்தான்

யான் முகமாய் அந்தாதி மேலிட்டு
அறிவித்தேன் ஆழ் பொருளை
சிந்தாமல் கொள்மின் நீர் தேர்ந்து

At least 2000 devotees gathered at 530pm on Thursday (Jan 25) evening at the Garuda Sevai Asthana Mandapam in Veereswaram near Amma Mandapam on the banks of Cauvery 30 minutes ahead of the Bhoopathi Thirunaal Garuda Sevai Purapadu of Lord Namperumal.

Timing of the Procession – A Distinguishing feature at Srirangam
Historically, a distinguishing feature at the Ranganathaswamy Divya Desam has been the perfect timing of the processions of Lord Namperumal. While the devotees started gathering in at Veereswaram to pick their favourite spot to have first darshan of the Lord atop his vehicle Garuda, few knew that the Lord’s vehicle was still being constructed inside the Ranganatha temple.

Focus on Constant New Additions
HR & CE has heavily cashed in, over the last decade, on the donor’s craze to contribute. There had already been many new Golden Vahana contributions in 2017. And it was time for another Golden Garuda this time for the Bhoopathi Thirunaal. However, this turned out to be a last day exercise, leaving devotees wondering if the devotees were wooed late into the utsavam!!!

Two hours to the scheduled start of the procession at Veereswaram, the Lord’s vehicle had just begun to be anointed with the Golden Kavacham as this writer stood next to the Garuda Mandapam near the Ariya Bhattal Vaasal at the Ranganathaswamy temple wondering as to why the vehicle had not reached Veereswaram at this hour. The alankaram of both the Lord atop the Garuda Vahana as well as the Garuda himself usually takes close to an hour and the screen closes (for devotee darshan) by 5pm on the evening of the Garuda Sevai.

But here the Vehicle Lord was surrounded by multiple workers nailing the screws on the new addition of Gold closely watched and monitored by the time keeper Manian who had a worried look on his face as time was ticking by and it was likely that the procession would not start on time.

Lord’s faith in Garuda
பதிப்பகைஞற்க்கு ஆற்றாது பாய் திரை நீர் பாழி
மதித்து அடைந்த வாழ் அரவம்
தன்னை மதித்து
அவன் தன் வல் ஆகத்து ஏற்றிய
மா மேனி மாயவனை
அல்லாது ஒன்று ஏத்தாது  என் நா - திருமழிசை ஆழவார் 
Namperumal had reached Veereswaram earlier in the day after his morning procession on the 'Prabhai’ around the Uthira Streets of Srirangam. Those devotees who gathered in large numbers after 5pm continued to have darshan of Lord Namperumal that it should have been time to close to the screen for the Garuda Sevai alankaram. But the Vehicle of the Lord had not arrived at Veereswaram even by 5.30pm.

First the authorities and Then the Devotees with the Photo Shoot!!!
While the devotees were thus waiting at Veereswaram, it was time for the authorities and the ever smiling- never to miss a 'photo opp' Sundar Bhattar to do a photo shoot at the Ranganatha Temple with the new Golden Garuda Vahanam. And just close to the scheduled time of the purapadu, the small sized Golden Garuda arrived by a tractor at Veereswaram!!! 
Several hundreds of devotees had lined up on both side of the Mambazha Salai just before 6pm in the hope of having darshan in the next few minutes. Over the next half hour, there were murmurs from the several decades old traditionalists of Srirangam who had watched this utsavam from way back in the 1950s. They recalled as to how timing was one thing that Lord Namperumal never missed and that the devotees could always arrive to have darshan at the scheduled time. They bemoaned this tradition that Namperumal never likes a delay too was being tinkered with.

When an official who has been involved at the temple for well over three decades was asked as to how even the basic work on the new Garuda was still going on after 4pm inside the Ranganatha temple said that ‘such questions should not be asked and that one would have to just wait it out’!!! A typical response of the changing times at the temple!!
If this was a sign of the changing times and the ‘donor funding’ driven functioning under the HR & CE, at 645pm one got a taste of the new wave of devotion.

As the screen opened and Lord Namperumal made a grand entry out of the Veereswaram Mandapam led by the Ghee lit lamps, one was delighted to see the hands of the devotees rising in Unison in the hundreds. It seemed that they all remembered the verses of Thirumazhisai Azhvaar.

In his praise of the Lord of Srirangam, Thirumazhisai Azhvaar had said that the Lord goes around looking for the true devotees and that the devotees too are constantly looking at his lotus feet for blessing.

ஆட் பார்த்து உழிதருவாய்
கண்டுகொள் என்றும் நின் தாட்பாரத்து
உழி தருவேன் தன்மையை
கேட்பார்க்கு யாரும் பொருளாய் நின்ற அரங்கனே
உன்னை விரும்புவதே விள்ளேன் மனம்

But lo, it was not the folded hands of devotion. The first action from almost the entire devotee crowd (including the ladies and the Senior Citizens) from the Veereswaram Mandapam to the Mambazha Salai was to shoot the picture of the Lord with their Smart Phones. And the Lord had to wait to see the folded hands!!!

The Truly Devotional Prabhandham Ghosti
It was almost 830pm when the Lord entered the South Uthira Street in front of the Ranga Ranga Gopuram where the Prabhandham Scholars had been waiting for a while to begin the recital of the Nanmugan Thiruvanthathi on this fourth day of the utsavam. 
Their devotion to the Lord is probably the tradition that has been least affected at this temple in the decades gone by. No cell phone chats during their recital unlike in so many other Divya Desams. They are truly focused on the Lord despite the many distractions. Their chanting style of the Prabhandham that is unique to the Ranganathaswamy temple is so full of devotion that it is difficult not to be devotionally lured.

Lord passes by the defunct open toilets on Uthira Streets
If the delay on the evening and rising hands of the cell phones were not enough of a bad sign, one was even more shocked as the Lord passed through the North Uthira and East Uthira Streets. Just a few yards away from the Lord were several open Indian Styled toilets. Some of them had been closed with Sand but several remained open and the devotees who walked along with the Lord during the procession had to evade these pavement toilets, carefully.

While so much of attention is paid to the anointment of Gold on the Garuda even as late as 5pm, an hour ahead of the scheduled time of the utsavam unmindful of the delay to the procession and the waiting devotees, the Lord is made to pass through with a number of defunct open toilets by his side.

While the authorities just showcased the UNESCO award on the grand restoration of the temple to the CM of Tamil Nadu, it is important that during the post restoration phase and as part of its ongoing initiatives, they pay attention to these details on street processions. It is not enough to just have all the vahanas embedded with Gold. One has to ensure that the Lord is handed out a grand welcome in all the streets and the presence of defunct toilets on the traditional Uthira streets is surely not a rewarding experience for the Lord.

The Historical Thai Utsavam
The Bhoopathi Thirunaal utsavam in Thai dates back to the period of the Vijayanagara King Veera Bhoopathi Udayar who in a birthday celebration began the Chariot Festival on his birthday on Punarpoosam in Thai over 500 years ago.  It is in recognition of his contribution that the festival in Thai at the Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam has been named as the ‘Bhoopathi Thirunaal’ with the Utsava Deity going around the Uthira Veethi (the inner street) on each of the days on an exclusive Vahanam with the Chariot Festival on the 9th day.

Bhoopathi Udayar would not have been happy of a festival named after him with the Lord passing by open toilets on the historically traditional ‘Outer Prakaram’.

Back at the temple, for close to an hour, the prabhandham experts continued with their devotional rendering of Thirumazhisai Azhvaar’s verses standing opposite the Vahana Mandapam. And as the Lord listened to the high pitched traditional recital and having seen the great service rendered by the Sri Patham Thangis -20 of whom carried him in turns for almost close to 3 hours on the evening, he would have hoped that the HR & CE officials as well as the authorities too showed the same intent in carrying out this historical utsavam in a traditional way not allowing for such delays and ensuring the traditional streets that the Lord passes by are clean so the sanctity of the utsavam is maintained. 
PS: The Sri Patham Thangis after having seen the Lord through to the Kannadi Arai just after 10.30 pm were back the next morning at 4am for the Sesha Vahana procession around the Uthira Streets followed by a procession. One cannot but admire their devotional commitment to the Lord’s procession during these 11 days.


Usha Sampath said...

Sad to note so many flaws in governance of great srirangam temple. Ashamed of HR&CE . They just mismanage funds. Brave article. Keep it going. It is the responsibility of each and every one. Great work.

Anonymous said...

very nice posting with plus and minus seen at the time of purappadu.
shows the real picture of the happening

Anonymous said...

very well written, Prabhu

markiv said...

Thank you for this article and for highlighting the wrong doing of the authorities. Adiyen

Anonymous said...

Just read this brilliant post.

As usual the incompetence & greed of HR&CE made me sad and angry. Hope the day when we start managing our temples dawns soon and we do a good job of that.