Friday, April 13, 2018

Chidambaram Maasi Magam Utsavam

A through the night trip from Chidambaram to Kille
When as part of his humble offering, a young puncture shop owner on the outskirts of Chidambaram kept his shop open well past 10pm and filled air to the tyres of the Lord’s vehicle and saw it as the service he could render to the Lord on the night when Chitrakoodathullan, the Utsava deity of Chidambaram Divya Desam began his 15km trip to Killai for the Theerthavari Utsavam at the Eastern Sea Shore on the occasion of Maasi Magam, one was reminded of Thiru Mangai Azhwar’s praise of the greatness of Thillai Thiru Chitrakoodam and what the Lord expects from his devotees.

In his very first verse of praise of the Lord of Chidambaram, he says that one did not have to undertake severe penance by holding one’s breath or by stopping the five senses. Just visiting Thillai Nagar Thiru Chitrakoodam and having darshan of the Lord was enough to please the Lord and gain his blessing.

செந்தளிர்வாய் மலர் நகை சேர் செழுந்தண்  சோலைத் 
தில்லை நகர் திரு சித்திரகூடந் தன்னுள் 
அந்தணர்கள் ஒரு மூவாயிரவர் ஏத்த 
அணிமணி ஆசனத்து இருந்த அம்மான் தானே

Unmindful of his age, 85 year old AV Rangachari, former Economic Professor of Annamalai University, was at the Chidambaram Divya Desam two hours ahead of Lord Chitrakoodathullan’s trip to Killai and ensured that the Seva Kalam took place on time facilitating the timely departure of the Utsava deity for the night long procession.
He 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. 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. Rangachari has been an integral part of the Seva Kalam at this Divya Desam ever since. 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.  By this time, he had also taken up the responsibilities for the conduct of Utsavams.

Lesson of his Life – Saivite – Vaishnavite Unity
The greatest initiation to him as a young boy from the elders was to have a cordial relationship with the Saivites. As one watches him from a corner, every devotee to the temple including to the Nataraja Sannidhi pays regards to him with folded hands seeking his blessings. His philosophy has always been quite simple ‘If you are straight forward and offer your service to the Lord with Devotion, people will trust you’.

After a grand alankaram by the priests, Chitrakoodathullan left his abode at Chidambaram on 28th (Feb) evening along with Sri and Bhoo Devi Thayar. 

All along the first couple of hours of his trip, many other devotees comprising of Petrol Station owners, staff of hospital and employees of provision stores accorded a warm welcome to the Lord presenting their offerings to him.

100s of devotees at Nakkara Vanthan Kudi
As the Lord passed by into Nakkara Vanthan Kudi, a remote Village East of Chidambaram late into the night, one was even more humbled with the unflinching devotion of the villagers with over a 100 of them gathering in front of the Draupadi Amman Temple with flowers, garlands and variety rice to be presented to the Lord on his only trip of the year to their village.  And when Chitrakoodathullan reached their Village well past 10pm, they sung verses of praise on him in unison. In line with Kulasekara Azhwar’s praise, devotees thronged to see and enjoy the Lord of Chitrakoodam. And almost as following the devotional steps, the devotees of Nakkara Vanthan Kudi, old and the young alike offered worship with bowed heads and folded hands. 
The story goes that in centuries gone by, the villagers pleaded with the Lord during this trip to make his way through the green fields as they believed that the Lord’s presence on their agricultural land would prove to be a great blessing for the coming harvest season.

Silk Shawls at Pinnathur Village
As the clock ticked to 11pm, the Lord bid farewell to these delighted devotees for another year and continued his march to the next destination through the dark streets lit up only by the Moon light.

It was the big day of the year for the devotees at Pinnathur, a small village 5kms off Killai. The entire village came together in large numbers to receive the Divya Desam Lord from Chidambaram even though it was well past mid night.
For half hour, the villagers comprising mainly of farmers and their families showered the Lord with a wide range of colourful silk shawls and sought his blessings. 

Revival of Theppotsavam - Next Year
It was at the ancient Rama temple in Pinnathur Village that historically the Utsava Deity of Thillai Chitrakoodam Divya Desam took part in a Theppotsavam on his return trip from Killai. With the temple in a dilapidated condition, the Theppam had to be stopped a few decades ago. However with the renovation under way to get the temple back in shape, the authorities are hoping to revive the Theppotsavam next year at the temple.

By now, the Lord had been on road for over 5 hours. As he moved on from Pinnathur, the streets wore a deserted look. There was silence all around in the middle of the night.

1am and the Procession Continues
The Sri Patham Thangis’ motivational talks spurring each other to move the Lord onto the final destination at Killai was the only noise that could be heard as the Lord touched the Chidambaram Pichavaram Highway. It was almost 1.30am when the Lord reached Killai where at the Anjaneya Temple he rested for the night.

Historically, this used to be a weeklong utsavam with Veda Narayana Perumal of Valaimadevi (near Neyveli) and Varaha Perumal of Perumathur too joining the Chidambaram Divya Desam Lord in this annual Maasi Celebrations.

Theerthavari at the Sea Shore
The next morning Lord Chitrakoodathullan was up early to make his way to the Eastern Sea Shore for the annual Theerthavari utsavam on Maasi Magam that was then followed by a Thirumanjanam at Killai. 
Later in the day, he made another long trip, this time westwards to Bhuvanagiri. As per the Chitrakoodam Puranam, the Lord of this Divya Desam enjoyed the Thiru Kalyana Vaibhavam at Vellaanthankarai ( Bhuvanagiri) in Maasi. As part of this legendary episode, the Thiru Kalyana Utsavam was performed at the Saurashtra Mandapam on the banks of Vellaaru in Bhuvanagiri.

After three days, having provided darshan to thousands of devotees in several villages around Chidambaram, the Lord began his trip back on Saturday (March 3) evening to reach his abode at Chidambaram at 930pm.

And much to the delight of the devotees who were awaiting his return, Chitrakoodathullan and Bhoo Varaha Perumal of Sri Mushnam, who too arrived there after the Theerthavari in Killai provided a joint darshan at the Chidambaram Divya Desam thus bringing to end the Maasi Magam Utsavam.

( A version of this story featured in The Hindu Friday Review dated April 13)

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