Sunday, April 15, 2018

Kanchi Varadar Pallava Utsavam

18 Adyayams in the Brahmma Puranam provide a great description of the greatness of Athigiri
A Grand Seven Day Celebration bringing back memories of the legendary tale of this historic Temple Tow

என் திசையும் கடலேழு மலைகள் ஏழும்
ஈரேழு வையகமும் படைத்து இலங்கும்
புண்டரீகத்து அயன் புணர்த்த பெரிய வேள்விப்
புனித நறும் போக்கியத்தை உவந்து வந்து

தொண்டையெனும் மண்டலத்தின் நடுவில் பாரில்
தூ நிலம்  மெய்யவிரதத்து தோன்றி நின்ற
தொண்டல் அருள் குணமே நாம் கூறுகின்றோம்
கூர்மதியீர் குறிப்பாகக் கொண்மின் நீரே - Vedanta Desikar
It is a period before the big utsavams in Chitrai and Vaikasi. And summer is just around the corner. This phase is usually a quiet period for the Lord of Kanchi. For seven days ending with Shravanam in Panguni, Lord Varadar enjoyed the extensive presentation of the legend relating to this ancient temple town as part of the Pallava Utsavam.

While the legend has been narrated in great detail in different puranams, during these seven days, the descendents of Thatha desikan present the legend as described in 18 adyayams of the Athigiri Mahatmiyam from the Brahmma Puranam. On the final day, Vedanta Desikar’s Rahasya Grantha on the Lord of Kanchi is also presented.

On each of these seven days, the story from a particular adyayam or set of adyayams was narrated – first as a slokam followed by an exhaustive description of its meaning. 
Srisaila Thathachariar is truly devotional as can be seen from his commitment to Athigiri Arulaalar. He has presented this annual sthalam puranam describing the legendary tale of Athigiri during the Pallava Utsavam. As he sits down talking to me on his presentations from the past, one gets an immediate sense of his devotion. He rolls out beautiful verses from the Brahmma Puranam doling out exciting tale relating to the emergence of Deva Perumal here at Athigiri.

As he presents the story, it is just so full of devotional honesty to the Lord of Kanchi. A sanskrit professor at the nearby college, one almost gets a child like excitement to be at his class each day such is his passionate roll out of this tale relating to Brahmma's Yagna and its outcome. He is also there in the evening on each of the days as part of the vedic recital in front of Lord Varadar.


Creating Kanchi for Brahmma's Yagna
The opening day of the Pallava Utsavam was the day of the introduction - the story of why Brahmma does the yagna, why Kanchi was chosen for this sacred event, the details of the rishis that attended the yagna.It is also the day when the important missing block in this exercise is brought out.  The puranam states that Vashishta alerted Brahmma to the fact the Yagna could not be done in the absence of Saraswathi.

It is a day when the speciality of performing a yagna at Kanchi and its locational significance was narrated in great depth.

The descendant of Thatha Desikan (currently working at Turbo Energy, Sholingur) revealed that ahead of the huge Yagna, Brahmma summoned Sculptor Vishwakarma and directed him to create a city suitable for the occasion. The great sculptor that he was, Vishwakarma went about creating a place similar to the Deva logam with beautiful gardens, huge water filled tanks, hundreds of wells, Maada Maligai with big Thinnais and large Veethis.
எத்திசை நிலனும் எய்தி 
அருந்தவம் செய்த அந்நாள்


சத்தியவிரதம் செல்வாய் 
என்ற ஓர்  உரையின் சார்வாள்

அத்திசைச் சென்றழைத்து 
அங்கு அமரர் இல் எடுப்பான் தன்னை

உத்தரவேதிசெய்  என்று 
உரை அணங்கு இறை உரைத்தான்


On the 2nd day of the Utsava, the tale revolved around a worried Brahmma directing his disciples to locate Saraswathi and to bring her to the yagna. It was also the day when the story behind Saraswathi’s anger was retold and why she went away from Brahmma.

Saraswathi’s Anger
When Saraswathi enquired as to who was better – she or Lakshmi, Brahmma pointed to the latter, leading an unhappy Saraswathi to ask if she was at least the better of the Theerthams. There to Brahmma pointed to Ganga as the more sacred. Having thus been embarrassed in front of the Sabha comprising of Devas and Rishis, Saraswathi went away to the Saraswathi Theertham and performed penance.

As per Brahmma’s instructions, the rishis went in search of her and finally found her at the Saraswathi Theertham. When the rishis request Saraswathi to return and be present at the yagna, she narrates the story behind her anger and suggests that if he is indeed so keen on her presence, he should come and perform the yagna here at this place.

Significance of Kanchi
The many devotees from around the Mada Streets provide an eager ear to the story of Kanchi. The rishis present the greatness of Kanchi and impress upon her about this being a Sthala Kshetram Yagna and hence the merits of it are likely to occur only if done in Kanchi. It is also the day when in several verses the specialty and greatness of Kanchi is narrated. 
‘All sins go away if the yagna is performed at Kanchi and hence the importance of Brahmma conducting the yagna there. ’

However, Saraswathi remains firm and refuses to return much to the disappointment of the Rishis.

Presenting the Legend - Two Hours each day
On the succeeding days, this story is taken forward by the Thatha Desikan descendents. Soon after Lord Varadar makes his way to the Asthana Mandapam near the Western Raja Gopuram, the descendents, each of whom take turns every year to present this legendary story stand in front of the Lord and present for well over two hours Brahmma’s Yagna tale and the challenges that he encountered.

Angered at the stubbornness of Saraswathi and her unwillingness to work for the dharmic good of the world, Brahmma decided to go ahead without her justifying to his preceptor that the yagna would be just as successful in the presence of Savitri.

The entire Bhoo Logam and Deva Logam participated in the Yagna except Saraswathi. With the huge participation in sight, Brahmma appointed Brahmins to take care of the guests. 

The Sambhavanai Dispute!!!
The Brahmins in an eagerness to please the Devas presented additional sambhavanai to them infuriating the Asuras. Virata, the head of the Asuras took note of this. However he took a cautious stance. Realizing that Lord Narayana would work for the cause of the Devas, he asked the asuras to remain calm as he worked out a strategy.

Virata sketched a plan to stir up the already angry Saraswathi and decided to seek her support. They went as a group disguised as Brahmins. Once they arrived at the Saraswathi Theertham, Virata presented the story of the happenings at the Yagna and how it had begun in the presence of Savitri who was seated majestically in the place that was meant for Saraswathi. No sooner did he say this, he secured the reaction that he expected.

Even though she knew who they really were, she blessed them as they seemed to be her well wisher.
Saraswathi was fuming in anger at Brahmma’s action replacing her with Savithri and decided to use all her powers to stop the Yagna.  She  crossed mountains and forests at a rapid pace that they came crushing down and everything seemed to be giving way to her to clear her path to Kanchi. As she entered Kanchi, her anger surmounted watching the size of the yagna and the city that had been created. And she vented out her anger in the form of flash floods from river Vegavathi that sought to destroy the Yagna. The rishis and kings who had gathered there ran helter skelter for cover. They all wondered as to how unseasonal this was to have flash floods.

There was chaos everywhere with the sudden inflow into the city. Brahmma sought the help of Lord Narayana for the safe conduct and the successful completion of the Yagna. This was beautifully presented through several stotrams. These purana stotrams also describe the 10 avataars of Lord Narayana and Brahmma requests the Lord to protect him too like he did in those avatars.

Answering his prayers, he presented himself in different places around this ancient city including in a sleeping posture to prevent the river from flowing across to the location of the Yagna and thwarting Saraswathi’s efforts to disrupt the Yagna. Saraswathi stops on seeing the Lord and her anger subsides. Slowing her pace, she nears the Lord and surrenders to him and agrees to go and join Brahmma at the yagna.  It was from here that the river splits into seven different tributaries.

Vashishta gives the green signal to Brahmma to allow Saraswathi at the yagna and it continues.

Devaperumal's emergence on the Hastham day in Chitrai
While Indra, Varuna and Agni were staying right opposite the Yagna, they did not get the desired effect when the ‘Swaaha’ mantra was recited. Bemused at this, they approached Brahmma who told them that this Yagna was directed at Lord Narayana and that it was not to get any fruits. Hence the entire benefit goes directly to Lord Narayana.  This again is so beautifully described and explained in the Purana.
And suddenly there was fragrance all around Athigiri. Much to everyone’s surprise, a Vimana came out of the Yagna from the middle of the fire with Lord Narayana emerging out as Deva Perumal. In around 30 slokams, the entire physical beauty of Devaperumal is beautifully described in the Purana. The appearance of his eyes, his ears, the placing of his feet, the weapons he held and so on.  

The Purana states that the lord emerged here on the Hastham day (Sunday) in Chitrai early in the morning. It really was an exciting third day’s presentation by the Thatha Desikan descendant.

Arathanam Process for Devaperumal
On the fourth morning, after having described the way the Lord emerged at athigiri, the entire arathanam process was described through several beautiful stotrams that brought to life the many different arathanams for Devaperumal. On this day, the many abharanams that the Lord adorns were also described in great detail including the one that Brahmma himself had presented.

On the fifth day of the Pallava Utsavam, the story of Brahmma’s Yagna was brought to a close with the Sambhavanai to all those present and the sending off to their respective places. Having seen the Lord emerge, Brahmma went round and round the Lord like how one would hug a new born, a description that brought tears in the eyes of those present.  This episode of Brahmma’s Yagna ended with Brahmma seeking the boon from the Lord to stay here for ever in ‘Nithya Vaasam’ and provide darshan to his devotees.

Brahmma's sad departure brings tears
On the sixth day, Devaperumal asks Brahmma to go back to Sathya Logam and there are sad tears from the sincere devotees present on the day as Thathachar presents the slow manner in which an unwilling Brahmma left this place. This event is enacted at the temple during the Desikar Utsavam in Puratasi. The Purana relating to this particular episode ends with the entire world talking about this yagna for several years, such was its greatness of having taken place at Athigiri.

பெருமையுடை அத்திகிரிப் பெருமாள் வந்தார்
பேராத அருள்பொழியும் பெருமாள் வந்தார்
அருமறையின் உச்சிதனில் நின்றார் வந்தார்
அங்கமுடன் அவையாகும் அரியோர் வந்தார்

திருவுரையாய்த் தாம் பொருளாய் நிற்பார் வந்தார்
திருவருளால்  செழுங்கலைகள் தந்தார் வந்தார்
மருவலர்க்கு மயக்குரைக்கும் மாயோர் வந்தார்
வானேற  வழி தந்தார் வந்தார் தாமே

The Final Day Action (April 10)
On the final day, Vedanta Desikar made an early morning trip from Thoopal Divya Desam to the Varadar Temple. Marking the concluding day’s celebrations, of the seven day utsavam, Lord Varadar was treated to an hour long Thirumanjanam.


Gajendra Aradhanam in Tretha Yugam
The Thathachariar descendant then went on to describe the Gajendra Aradhanam the story of how Maha Shathar Rishi undertakes severe penance. Indra who felt insecure at the severity of the penance sent beautiful girls to distract the rishi.  

Later the rishi meets Brigandu Maha Rishi who directs him to Kanchi explaining the greatness of the place and asks him to take bath at the Chakkarai Theertham there. He asks him to invoke the blessings of Narasimha (at the entrance to the Malai Perumal) before seeking the blessings of Devaperumal. He asks the elephant to clear the place so he could do aradhana for the Lord. The Gajendra Moksham episode is described here in around 30 slokams.

Brihaspathi Aradhanam
This was followed by a description of Brihaspathi Aradhanam. Following a curse, Brihaspathi is born in the bhoo logam. Here he hits a dog that comes seeking asylum at a house. The dog tells him that he is at fault for this wrong action and that he will have to repent. Brihaspathi comes to Athigiri and does Gayathri Jabam to relieve himself of his sins. Perumal comes as a 16 year old before Brihaspathi. When the latter asks him to go away, the young boy asks him to take care of his lean body and informs him that he will soon be relieved of his sins.

This entire episode is narrated by Narada to Brigu Maha rishi highlighting the fame of Athigiri. The Puranam ends with Brahmma describing the Ashtanga Yagnas.

On the final evening, Lord Varadar was decorated with several different varieties of garland. As the clocked ticked to 6 pm, devotees in several hundreds congregated in front of the Pallava Utsavam asthana mandapam for this final evening’s celebrations. For their devotional seven day presentation in front of the Lord narrating in depth the legendary tale of Brahmma’s Yagna at Kanchi, the Thatha Desikan descendants were presented with the Lord’s garland in a thanking gesture. 
Vedic Recital continues to be a strong hold at Kanchi and the vedic scholars presented all the four Vedas before the Lord.

How about Rs. 5 from each for the Theertham?
While the devotees (in large numbers) were missing during the devotional rendition of the Athigiri Mahatmiyam on each of the seven days, they suddenly seemed to arrive from nowhere during the presentation of Theertham and the hot Pongal and Dhadhyonam (a feature seen in many temples in Tamil Nadu). And just the presentation of the prasadam took almost half an hour, such was the devotee crowd .
Shortly after 8pm, the handsome looking Varadar made his way to the Anjaneya temple west of the Raja Gopuram. Led by the presentation of the Periya Thirumozhi Verses on Pullam Bhoothangudi, he made his way back to the temple even as the agraharam residents continued to shower him with their offerings. 

After a week long stay for the Pallava Utsavam, the Utsava deity made his way back to his abode at the Malai Koil just after 9pm bringing to end a historical Utsavam that brought back memories from the legendary tale of Kanchi.

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