Thursday, April 5, 2018

Thiruvanaikaval Pancha Prakara Utsavam

The legendary episode of Jambukeswarar and Akilandeswari swapping their roles and providing darshan to Brahmma on the Rohini day in Panguni was enacted at the Thiruvanaikaval temple

Teenagers provide a Grand Re -Entry of the Divine Couple with a non stop 2 hour exhilarating 'Periya Udal' and Brahmma Thaalam Presentation
The Pancha Prakara Utsavam, the biggest festival at this ancient Thevaram Sthalam, marks the culmination of the long Brahmotsavam at the Jambukeswarar temple in Thiruvanaikaval. It is the only day in the year when the two provide darshan in all the five prakarams.

Located on the Northern banks of Cauvery is the Lord Jambukeswarar temple in Thiruvanaikaval, one of the Pancha Bhootha Sthalams, where Lord Shiva manifests himself as ‘Water’ (among the five elements). Hence this is referred to as a ‘Neer’ sthalam (‘Appu’ in Sanskrit). Thiru ‘Aanai’ kaval is home to Nava Theertham, with the Pancha Prakara Utsavam relating to one of them, the Brahmma Theertham, where Brahmma undertook penance to liberate himself from a grievous sin.

The story goes that after having created a beautiful girl in this world, Brahmma cast his eye on the beautiful girl when he should have seen her as his own daughter. Inflicted with Brahmma Hathi Dosham, he came here, bathed in the Theertham south of the temple and undertook penance invoking the blessings of Jambukeswarar. A pleased Lord Shiva decided to provide darshan to Brahmma and liberate him from the Dosham.

However, as he was preparing to leave, Goddess Akilandeswari too wanted to join. Shiva cautioned that Brahmma had got into this situation lured by the beauty of a young girl and did not want to take a chance once again. Thus a unique feature of this historical festival is that as a cautionary gesture, they decided to interchange roles – Shiva took the form of Akilandeswari and the Goddess went there as Jambukeswarar and provided darshan to Brahmma. It was only after liberating Brahmma from his Dosham, that they moved back into their original forms.

This legendary episode of Jambukeswarar and Akilandeswari swapping their roles and providing darshan to Brahmma on the Rohini day in Panguni was enacted at the Thiruvanaikaval temple at the Brahmma Theertham at the South end of the 5th Prakara and liberating him from his sins was enacted at the Pancha Prakara Utsavam at Thiruvanaikaval on Monday (April 2) night. 

A Grand Alankaram
It is 5 pm on Monday evening. The temple wears a quiet look and the devotees are having a darshan of the moolavar deity, Jambukeswarar, manifesting himself as Water inside a small enclosure in the sanctum.

Not too far away from here, the alankaram experts are quietly at the task of transforming Ambal into Jambukeswarar and vice versa. Adi Sankara had himself presented the Goddess with two beautiful ear rings – Thaadagam with Sri Chakra. The alankara process for beautiful looking Akilandeswari is a very special feature at this temple. Decked with Jewels and thick long garlands, the couple is ready by 7pm for the night long trip. The first two inner most prakarams were completed in fairly quick time. 
It is a night of the year when the legendary Thevaram sthalam stays awake to welcome the divine couple into their homes.  Just after 8pm, 25 vedic scholars gathered at the entrance of the 3rd prakaram. Alongside the divine couple, there were around 50 devotees ready to begin the recital of the Thevaram verses.
The Procession through the 3rd Prakaram
At the western entrance of the 3rd prakaram vedic chanting began with the young boys’ devotional recital. The first stop of the long festive night was at the Eastern End of the 3rd Prakaram. It was well past 9 pm and the decades long Gurukal alerted that the devotees will start swarming into the temple when the couple enter the 3rd prakaram. And so it was. As the two stopped over at the mandapam at the Eastern end,  devotees gathered in several hundreds to watch the beautifully decorated couple . Around the divine couple, activity gathered steam. 

At the far end, as has been the tradition over the decades, prasadam in large quantities were presented to every devotee that was to serve as dinner on the night. At another corner of the prakaram, upanyasakars had congregated to present the inner meaning of the Theveram Verses. Flanked by musicians, they presented the learnings from the sacred verses of the Saivite Saint poets through the night.
As the time ticked to 10.30pm, the loud beating of the drum signified that the couple are ready to move past the towering Western Raja Gopuram into the fourth prakaram – referred to as the Ul Thiru Veethi or the Car Street.

A heartening feature of this sthalam is that the Ul Veethi still houses traditional residents living life the way they used to centuries ago. From the physical attire to the way they address the guests gives one a glimpse of the people from the centuries gone by. Any new comer to the North Ul Thiru Veethi is invited to sit on that old Thinnai at the entrance of the house and offered a glass of water from the pot. The modesty of communication is enlightening and one is left to wonder if such people still exist. 
The entire street was dotted with white pulli kolams, each of which welcoming the couple in their own devotional way. As the couple make their way to the northern gateway of the temple, the experience is even more delightful. Several boys aged below 20 with the sacred ash on their body are seen learning the Vedas. They offer their respects to the couple in front of the Sankara Mutt that has produced scores of vedic scholars. The sincerity of the young boys and their commitment to a devotional life has to make a new entrant happy.

As the couple passed through this most traditional street of Thiruvanaikaval, many old time residents remembered the legendary story behind this temple’s architecture.

Ko Chenganan's First Maada Koil
Thiruvanaikaval is the first of the ‘Maada Koils’ built by the great Chozha King Ko Chenganan. The story goes that a Spider provided shade to the Lord through its cobweb, while an elephant performed pooja removing all the dirt around the lord, bringing water for Abhishekam, plucking flowers and fruits and providing sandalwood. One day, angered at finding a cobweb above the Lord, the elephant swung his tail and hit out at the web as he saw it as dirt. In retaliation, the spider entered the nose of the elephant. Stung with unbearable pain, the elephant died. The spider caught inside elephant’s body too died of suffocation. When they entered Kailasam, and asked for a wish, the elephant asked for this place where he performed pooja with sincerity to be named after him. Hence this place came to be called Thiru ‘Aanai’ Kaval. The spider asked to be born as a King who would build everlasting temples. 
The spider was thus born as Ko Chenganan Chozhan. He carried his anger into this life as well. Ko Chenganan built over 70 Saivite temples all of which were such that the elephant could not enter. It was either a small entrance into the sanctum or a high rise that an elephant could not climb. Ruling from Uraiyur, the then capital of the Chozhas, Ko Chenganan crossed the Cauvery and found an idol of Shiva beneath the tree. He also remembered his life as a spider when he had provided shade right above. His devotion touched a peak and he built Thiruvanaikal as his first Saivite temple.

The First Long break on the night
As the couple reach the far end of the North Ul Veethi, they are presented with silk vastrams. The entire street reverberated with loud devotional chants of the Vedas and the Thevaram verses. It is just past mid night when they reach the mid point of the South Ul Veethi. And it is time for the longest break of the night. For well over 90 minutes, the nagaswaram and band vadhyam sat right in the middle of the mid point of the South Ul Veethi and played devotional numbers. 
The residents of the South Ul Veethi presented butter milk among other offerings to the hundreds of devotees who accompanied the couple through the procession as well as to the service volunteers who were driving the couple on separate wheeled vehicles. Unfortunately, for decades, the procession has moved from carrying the couple on the shoulders to a procession on wheels. That was the one sour point of the procession.

It was 2am when Jambukeswarar and Akilandeswari continued their procession on the South Ul Veethi. At the far end of the street, near the sacred tank, the musicians sat down once again, this time for a 30 minute presentation. It had taken over 4 hours to complete the Ul Veethi, the 4th prakaram purapadu. Past 2.30am, the couple readied themselves for an even longer trip around the huge 5th prakaram, the huge walls of which is believed to have been built by the Lord himself. The traditional local residents of the Ul Veethi made their way back home promising to join the couple in the morning at a point on the 5th prakaram.

Vibhuthi Prakaram – The 5th Prakaram
The largest and outermost prakara – the fifth prakaram is referred to as the Vibhoothi Prakara. The story goes that several thousands of labourers toiled hard through the day to construct the prakara. As a reward of their hard work, these committed labourers were each given Vibhoothi as prasadam. As they went back home, to their pleasant surprise they found that the Lord’s Prasadam had magically turned into money – a testimony to the truth that the Lord rewards those who offer their sincere prayers and work sincerely in their daily lives.

The story of the Vibhuthi prakaram is one of extreme devotional to the couple of the Thiruvanaikaval. The non traditionalists may not know the Thevaram verses or may not be in the traditional madisar or panchakacham of the Ul Veethi but they clearly showcased on the night that their devotion to the Lord and Ambal is as pure as of anyone. Every house on the narrow streets around the 5th prakaram welcomed the couple in a devotional way offering coconuts and garlands invoking the blessings of the couple. It was well past 330am on the North Vibhuthi Street but even young children aged 5 were up with folded hands to invoke the couple’s blessings, such was the devotion of the residents of the prakaram.

Leading the couple in the front were Othuvars and Bhagavathas comprising of elderly men and women as well as young children who through the entire night chanted aloud Verses relating to different Thevaram Sthalams including Sundarar’s verse on Thiru Aanaikka where he refers to an interesting episode that every devotee should first offer their present to the Lord before consuming it. A Queen who was a gifted a set of glittering necklaces adorned herself and showcased it with all joy. After bathing in the Cauvery, she found the necklaces missing. Shocked at this loss, the king and the queen invoked the blessings of Lord Jambukeswarar to help find the necklaces. Shortly after, as the priest provided the Lord with the sacred bath the necklaces were seen on the Lord’s Lingam making them realise that in their hour of joy and greed, they had forgotten to first thank him for their state of happiness.

This story so beautifully narrated by Sundarar as a message to all devotees that we should not forget the Lord in our hour of happiness was sung with devotional fervour as part of the procession through the Vibhuthi Thiru Veethi. 
By the time the  Moon slid into the far western end of the sky giving way to the Sun in the East, the couple had made their way to South Vibuthi Street where after an early morning bath, residents with bright sacred ash on their forehead had darshan in front of their homes. It was almost 8am when they reached the South West end of the South Vibhuthi Street (now referred to as ‘Single Street’).

Exhilarating Devotional Drums
And then all of a sudden as the clock ticked to 8am, the procession saw a dramatic and a quite unexpected reverberation. It looked like the best moments of the 15 hour procession was reserved for the very end.

Out of no-where, around 10 boys all in their teens brought out the traditional ‘Udal’ (the sacred drum) and for almost two hours presented a nonstop devotional beating. It is only during such presentations that one’s belief in God is endorsed.  They showcased to the world that morning that with true service minded devotion to the divine couple, anything in possible.
Karthik is seen on the extreme right in this photo

Karthik, son of Sami Kannu who is performing pooja at the near by Pachai Amman Koil, is just 16 years old and has a good academics record at school. He is studying computer science in the Srirangam Boys High School.

One day over the next decade, he may join the corporate world but that morning on the West Vibhuthi Street, he showcased a devotional beating of the drum that would not be seen in any other Thevaram  Sthalam or Divya Desam. One had to wonder as to how a young lean teenaged boy could render such a hard paced devotional beating of the drum nonstop for two hours. And yet as every minute passed by that morning, one’s belief in God had to increase.

During those two hours, fruits were offered, fruit juices, butter milk and many more eats came his way and that of the other boys playing alongside him. There were others who watching their extra ordinary offered Sambhavanai to the set of artistes. But they would have none of it. The Panguni Sun was beating down as the clock ticked past 9am. Sweat poured like thick water down his brow. His cheek had turned red. Every vein in his body was activated. The small chest had expanded to its widest.   
It looked like Karthik had moved to a different world – a world devoted and dedicated to God. The beating of the Periya Udal got louder as he used the small cane in his right hand to magical effect with the speed of his strike reaching unbeatable levels. At his peak, Karthik would have reached speed levels of well over 60 strikes a minute and even as his team mates handed over their drum to another member, Karthik continued to increase the speed of the beat. There were other boys who played the Brahmma Thaalam in tune with the beating of the Periya Udal. Every now and then, Karthik instructed his members just with his eyes on the right tune to be played to be in synch with the beating of the Periya Udal.

Totally the boys number around 25, all having learnt this art by watching and practicing in their free time while they are away from school. Most exhibit the same intensity of devotion to Lord Jambukeswarar. With the Periya Udal tied to their shoulder, they forget the world around them. They also play instruments such as Kombu, Thiru chinnam, Kutta thaarai and Gowri Kaalam at Kumbhabhishekams in temples. They also help in cleaning large temples.

They are also learning the sacred verses of the Saivite Saint Poets.

They see this as service to God and do not take any money for their presentation!!! Quite unbelievable in this modern world where most services are billed!!! But these young boys strongly believe in not billing for this service to God.

It is almost close to 10 am and the couple are finally back at the Western entrance of the Ul Thiru Veethi, a spot in the fourth prakaram that they had left 7 hours earlier. With a Magudi Nagaswaram presentation, the couple made their way back to their abode bringing to end the 15 hour Pancha Prakara Procession.
The final word though rested with the drum beaters. Chanting Thiruchitrambalam and reciting a Thevaram Verse and thanking the couple for this opportunity, they beat the drums one final time at an exhilarating speed and that devotional rendition by these young boys brought to end Thiruvanaikaval’s longest and biggest utsavam, the 15 hour Pancha Prakara Utsavam.

1 comment:

trainlist said...

sivayanamaha, suresh iyya