Saturday, June 16, 2018

Kongilachan Thirumaligai Srirangam

Ramanuja assigned the service of Thathiyarathanai at the Ranganathaswamy Temple to Koil Kongilachan, one of his 74 disciples

Descendents hope that one day this Kainkaryam at the Madapalli will come back to them 
It is Friday morning and the first day of Aani. The day also coincided with Thiruvathirai, the star of Vaishnavite Saint Ramanuja. 39 year old Ramarajan, a descendent of Koil Kongilachan, the 27th disciple of Ramanuja, is busy performing aradhanam at the Kongu Piratti Koil Kongilachan Thirumaligai in Mangamma Nagar, South of the Srirangam Raja Gopuram, for the Lakshmi Narasimha Idol that Ramanuja had presented to each of his 74 disciples. 

Ramarajan’s father Sridharan Narasimha Acharya, aged 87 years, who had learnt the entire Divya Prabhandham from his father at a very early age was standing just behind him. A frail figure now, Sridharan presented Periyazhvaar's verses praising the different flowers that the Lord likes while his son placed those flowers before each of the idols. 
ஆமாறு அறியும் பிரானே
அணி அரங்கத்தே கிடந்தாய்
ஏமாற்றம் என்னைத் தவிர்ந்தாய்
இருவாட்சிப் பூச்சூட்ட வாராய்

திரு உடையாள் மணவாளா
திருவரங்கத்தே  கிடந்தாய்
மருவி மம்ண கமழ்கின்ற
மல்லிகை பூச்சூட்ட வாராய்’

On each of the Thiru Nakshatrams and on other sacred days in the year, these descendants of Koil Kongilachan perform aradhanam to Lord Lakshmi Narasimhar with the fullest of Bhakti, keeping far away the luring sounds of the mobile instruments.

Ramarajan’s grandfather Aadhi Sesha Narasimhacharya, born in 1901, was a great Divya Prabhandham exponent. He lived his entire life of over eight decades in service to the Lord of Srirangam participating in the Prabhandham Ghosti at the temple. He also performed Samasrayanam for his disciples. 
The legend
Kongu Piratti and Kongilachan belonged to the Kongu region (off Sathyamangalam near Coimbatore). The story goes that the Kongu region had been struck with famine arising out of drought and hence the two reached Srirangam to invoke the blessings of the Lord Ranganatha and Ranganayaki Thayar.

One day, Kongu Piratti was taken aback by hundreds of people comprising of Kings, Acharyas, Devotees and many others falling at the feet of Ramanuja on a street Ghosti. Surprised at the mass appeal of Ramanuja, she went up to him and asked him in full public view as to why everyone was falling at this feet instead of the feet of the Lord. Ramanuja was truly impressed at the confident nature of Kongu Piratti and told her that he had two special mantras that he initiated to people and it was the secret of how one had to live life. When asked if he could initiate that to her, he asked her to come to his place ( Sri Ranga Narayana Jeer Mutt) on the Northern side of Srirangam in front of the Ranganayaki Thayar Sannidhi at the conclusion of the Ghosti.

There Ramanuja initiated Kongu Piratti with the Ashtachara Mantra and Dwaya Mantra.Soon after the initiation, Kongu Piratti heard the news that her home town was filled with rain and that people there were thrilled with the sudden turn of events.

When it was time for her to return to the Kongu region, she went back to the Mutt and met Ramanuja.  She requested him not to get angry with what she was going to say. It was then that Ramanuja showcased how different he was to the incarnations of Lakshmana and Balarama. He asked her what she meant by ‘anger’ indicating that he knew not what anger was. She requested him to initiate her once again with the two special mantras for she had not been able to register it the previous time and now that she was going away to her home town.

Ramanuja's Anywhere, Anyone, Anytime initiation
Ramanuja told her that he would initiate the mantra anywhere to anyone at anytime and there were no restrictions whatsoever. And thus he initiated her a second time with the mantra.  Gathering enough courage, she asked him if he could present her with something that she could keep in memory of the meetings in Srirangam. When he said that he just had a stick and was not in possession of anything else, she requested if she could take the footwear of his that she found there.  And Ramanuja happily presented that to her. 
Subsequently, when the Chozha king created trouble for Ramanuja, he handed the Kashayam Vastram to Koorathazhvan and left the temple town in a White Vastram along with his disciples. For 15 days it is believed that he did not have any food. When he entered the Sathyamangalam region, it is said that Varadaraja Perumal and Perundevi Thayar, disguised in the form of hunters, provided darshan to him and directed him down the hill to a place where they would find good sacred food from the house of Kongu Piratti.

Kongu Piratti's respect for Ramanuja
When they reached the house and introduce themselves as having come from Srirangam, Kongu Piratti immediately enquired about the well being of Ramanuja. Like true disciples, they confirmed his happy state even though he had not eaten for 15 days.

When Kongu Pratti was presenting Thathiyaarathanai, Muthaliandaan and Kidambi Achan enquired as to who she was presenting the food to, she replied that it was to the sacred feet of Ramanuja whom she had met in Srirangam. In disbelief, the disciples reveal to her that Ramanuja was very much present there and that if her bhakti was true she should identify him. They threw a condition to her that they would eat only if she identified him. 

Muthaliandan and Kidambi Achan led the way with a small ghee lit lamp for her to try and identify Ramanuja on that late evening in pitch dark conditions. Even though Ramanuja was in a white vastram, she identified him much to the delight of the revered saint. However since she had presented the Thathiyarathanai to the feet of Ramanuja that evening, he said he would not be able to eat again.
The next morning her husband Kongilaachan was back at his home. Ramanuja had made up his mind during this trip that he would eat only at the hands of men. Hence while Kongu Piratti was keen to make the morning food for Ramanuja, she could not do so. Kongilachan like most men had not entered the kitchen and had not mastered the art of cooking. With a screen across them, Kongu Piratti narrated the mix of ingredients and the process of making the food that morning and they presented it to Ramanuja who also presented a Kalakshepam there. It was there at the home of Kongu Piratti that he wore the Kashayam vastram once again.

When much later, Ramanuja wanted to build the Thondanur tank, it was Kovilachan who organized the ‘Varaaham’. No sooner had the acharya thought about the requirement of funds in his mind, it is believed that Kovilachan organized it for him.

Thathiyarathani Kainkaranyam at Srirangam Temple
When Ramanuja finally returned to Srirangam, he assigned a kainkaryam at the Ranganathaswamy temple for each of the 74 disciples. Kongu Piratti and Koil Kongilachan were handed the task of managing the Madapalli and presenting Thathiyarathanai for Periya Perumal.

On his death bed, when his disciples asked as to who would be the next acharya, Ramanuja directed them to Kongu Piratti. She spread the hair and knotted it thrice with each knot indicating a specific meaning to the future course of action.

Ramanuja had handed each of them a Lakshmi Narasimhar idol that he had secured through his penance. He told them that even in periods when they are not able to perform the assigned service at the temple, they should ensure that they perform the daily aradhanam for this idol at their Thiru Maligai.


Ramarajan himself is a Rig Vedam Ganapadigal and has dedicated his life to the presentation of Vedas. His two young sons too have been initiated into Vedic learning and are currently at the Vedic Patshaala in Krishnapuram, near Tirunelveli (http://prtraveller.blogspot.com/2007/07/non-divya-desam-temple-tale.html).
                                                 
Thathiyarathanai Kainkaryam in the future??
Ramarajan, whose forefathers had performed Thathiyarathanai for Lord Ranganatha in the centuries gone by, bemoans the fact that the Kainkaryam has gone out of their hands. He is hopeful that one day this specific service that Ramanuja himself had assigned would come back to them. Until then, he is focusing on reciting the Vedas, 15 days in a month at Tirumala and presenting Kalakshepam regularly, though he is saddened by the fact that even on the morning of Ramanuja’s Thiru Nakshatram (June 15) when he presented a one hour aradhanam, none of the large contingent of disciples of Kongu Piratti and Koil Kongilachan made the effort to come to the Thirumaligai and be part of the sacred event. Such is the turn that life has taken but he is committed to performing the service on all sacred days at his Thirumaligai till the day the Thathiyarathanai service beckons him back at the Ranganathaswamy temple.

2 comments:

markiv said...

Great article. Is the Kongilachan Thirumaligai at 55, Mangamma Nagar, Srirangam ? Thank you

PRabhu S said...

Yes.
Prabhu