Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Sripandaram Krishna Jayanthi Utsavam Srirangam

The biggest and the best transformation at the Srirangam Ranganathaswamy temple has been the restoration of the Sri Pandaram to its ancient glory

A full fledged kitchen had come up at the Sri Pandaram in the 20th Century with the so called traditionalist Vaishnavites doing brisk business with a ‘food stall’

Lord Namperumal made his annual trip to Sri Pandaram this Monday on the occasion of Krishna Jayanthi Utsavam providing darshan through the day

‘Pilot’ Krishnan Araiyar, who had just become a father to a son, presented a 90 minute devotional rendering at the Sri Pandaram on Child Krishna growing up into a young boy including the making of the salty seedai 
Several hundreds of devotees watched in awe the Sri Jayanthi Celebrations on Monday (Sept 3) at the recently restored 100 pillared Sri Pandaram South of the Manal Veli at the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam, for it bore no resemblance to what even the most long time residents of Srirangam had experienced over the last many decades.

Not even the most ardent of devotee was clued in on the vast expanse of the 100 pillared mandapam at Sri Pandaram, a zone within the Ranganathaswamy temple where Lord Namperumal visits once annually on the occasion of Sri Jayanthi.

This is one of the four 100 pillared mandapam at the temple, each of which is connected through a neat pathway, an indication of the historical importance and relevance of these mandapams.

For decades, as one passed this 100 pillared mandapam from the Manal Veli on the Eastern side of the temple, all one could see was a high cement structure measuring 4 feet in height and 30 feet in width. Seated atop this temporary structure, the so called traditionalists at the temple sold food and snacks in the name of prasadams.

Thus with the passing of time this entire location within the huge temple complex had come to be seen as a ‘food’ stall. Almost none knew that this was for centuries together a huge 100 pillared complex.

Sri Pandaram turns into a Kitchen in the 20th Century
If this 20th century raised artificial structure was a shock, what one saw behind this high rise was quite unbelievable. A full fledged Kitchen had been functioning inside the temple with firewood stacked right up to the roof. There were artificial structures to the height of 4feet raised all around the mandapam to carry out the cooking. And a mini catering service had been carried out from within the temple complex. 
The restoration of the Sri Pandaram did not go through during the 18month restoration exercise that had been personally directed by the former late CM Ms. J Jayalalitha. The High Court order restricting renovation works stalled this work at the Sri Pandaram.

It was only subsequently that this was placed before the renovation committee appointed as per the court direction and approvals secured. 
And it was not an easy exercise to move the ‘food stall’ owners out of Sri Pandaram. It was business for them, selling food and snacks in the name of prasadam. Devotees, especially those from outside, continue to believe that this is the sacred food that has been presented to the Lord. Business has been brisk for several decades and those that have been running this have thrived on devotees’ innate desire to consume ‘prasadam’ at the temple.

The Best Restoration work within the Temple Complex
As has happened (and continues to happen), it took the persuasive skills and the devotional convincing powers (falling at the feet of the unauthorised food stall owner in full public view) of Venu Srinivasan, Chairman, Board of Trustees of the temple to get the ‘snacks businessmen’ to agree to give up their occupancy of the Sri Pandaram (it is another matter that they have found  a nearby location from the Sri Pandaram to sell their ‘Prasadam’ food and snacks)

And thus began the restoration of this historical utsavam location at the Ranganathaswamy temple. All the temporary structures were brought down. The heat waves generated from the ‘kitchen’ had blackened the roof completely. It was a humungous task to remove the structures, the heat marks on the pillars and the roof and the dirty filth that had engulfed the entire area outside the 100 pillared Mandapam.
It turned out to be one of the most expensive restoration exercises for a standalone mandapam costing well over Rs. 1crore. The entire flooring was restored to the ancient single stone pieces as against the larger stones in vogue currently.

Avani Rohini – Lord Namperumal’s annual trip to Sri Pandaram
It is the Rohini Star on Monday. Just past 9am in the morning, there is a certain buzz inside the Nazhi Kettan Vaasal at the Srirangam temple ahead of the birthday celebrations of Lord Krishna. Away at the Sripandaram, the flower decoration is on. The entire stretch has been decked with Vritchi Poo.  
At 10am, Lord Namperumal began his procession to the Sri Pandaram, where devotees have already gathered in expectation of his arrival. Even the locals have not seen the Sri Pandaram in its ancient glory for they too believed that this was historically a place to distribute Prasadam. Outstation visitors to the temple too are delighted to find a 100 pillar mandapam that they seemed to be completely unaware of during their earlier trips.

A couple of hours later, 5 Araiyars led by ‘Pilot’ Krishnan Araiyar began their presentation in front of the Sri Jayanthi Mandapam of the first two hundred songs of Periyazhvar Thirumozhi, where the Azhvaar enjoys the mystic experience of handling a child prodigy (Krishna) through the eyes of a mother (Yashodha).  

It is probably the largest zone in the Srirangam temple outside of the 1000 pillared mandapam for an utsavam celebration. 100s of devotees sat in front of and around the mandapam at the Sri Pandaram to watch the devotional rendering of Krishnan Araiyar, who himself had just become a father to a 2nd child.

Araiyar Sevai  by Pilot Krishnan Araiyar
Through this 90 minute presentation, Krishnan Araiyar, whose passion has been to become a Pilot from a very young age, brought to us the mood in and around Krishna’s house immediately following his birth. Yashodha dotes on him, sings lullaby for the baby in golden cradle, invites him to drink milk, and her friends to come to his house and admire the handsome features of the baby limb to limb. 
The birth of the child, the child’s first steps (Thalar Nadai), swaying dance on the mother’s lap (Sengeerai), clapping hands in happiness (Chappani) and the joy of sighting the full moon (Ambuli) for the first time were presented in detail in these verses.

Later during his presentation, he brought to those devotees present the yearnings of a loving mother who is seeking the embrace of this extra ordinary child, first receiving the hug from the front and then experiencing the embrace from behind leaving her in a state of ecstasy. When Krishnan Araiyar began his sevai of the verses on Lord Ranganatha's favourite flowers, one's eyes instantly moved to the flowers that Lord Namperumal adorned that morning at the Sri Pandaram.

ஆமாறு அறியும் பிரானே
அணி அரங்கத்தே கிடந்தாய்
ஏமாற்றம் என்னைத் தவிர்ந்தாய்
இருவாட்சிப் பூச்சூட்ட வாராய்

The clock was ticking to 1pm when the Araiyar began his presentation of the verses on child Krishna growing up to play with boys of his age and above.

Excitement among the devotees of Srirangam
Half hour later, he completed the presentation with a description of his acts of stealing butter and the feelings of the neighbours and their complaints to Yashodha wanting the mother to keep control of her mischievous son. It is a fascinating description of these angry feelings among the entire colony and a despondent mother who after sharing with her the entire list of complaints tries her best to advise him about staying away from his unfriendly neighbours. 
And when it came to the story of Krishna stealing the butter, one could spot a sense of excitement among the devotees with each of them visualizing the child Lord’s mischievous acts.
வெண்ணெய் விழுங்கி வெறுங் களத்தை 
வெற்பிடைஇட்டு  கேட்கும்

The neighbours say that he has gobbled up every ounce of butter on sight. He moves on from one house to another and there are going to be similar complaints from most other houses as well about these ‘wicked deeds’ of his. The neighbours instruct Yashodha that it is important for her to restrain him from such activities. They say that not only does he finish all the butter but he also has the audacity to throw all the empty pots on the rocks in such a way that it seemed he specifically wanted us to hear that thundering breaking noise

For 12 shravanams, her neighbour had made special offerings of rice made of paddy, ghee, cow’s milk, sugar and candy. And she now recollects what happened to each one of these. She bemoans that he finished everything and like an innocent child wanted another piece of it.

Salty Seedai and Delicious Laddus
And then another neighbour arrives. She says that she had made all the special sweets like Laddus and the Salty Seedai. He finished every single savoury. It was meant to be a lean day at home for that lady and she was not expecting any strangers at home. And hence she had gone away for a little while. But in this small gap, this naughty child came and finished off everything. With an intention to shame yashodha, she asks if this is the way for any child to be.

கன்னல்இலட்டுவத்தோடு சீடை காரெள்ளின் 
உண்டைகலத்திலிட்டு என்னகமென்று 
நான் வைத்துப் போந்தேன் 
இவன் புக்கு அவற்றைப் பொருத்திப் போந்தான்

Pilot Krishnan Araiyar ended his presentation with a complaint about Krishna’s act from the last neighbor in the colony.

Knowing Yashodha’s love for her son, the neighbor began with a statement that even Yashodha was likely to be furious with what she was going to hear.

She says that the boy entered her house, removed the bangles from her daughter’s hands, went out through the back door on to the street and exchanged these bangles for a purple fruit. And then as though he knew nothing, he acted with utmost innocence and gave a beautiful smiling face as if nothing at all had happened.

இல்லம் புகுந்து என் மகளைக் கூவிக் 
கையில்வளையைக் கழுற்றிக் கொண்டு 
கொள்ளையில் நின்றும்கொணர்ந்து விற்ற அங்கொருதிக்கு
 அவ்வளை கொடுத்துநல்லன நாவற் பழங்கள் கொண்டு 
நானல்லேன் என்றுசிரிகின்றானே

The rendering of the final set of verses by Krishnan Araiyar brought a smile in the faces of all the devotees present at the Sri Pandaram as they visualized the activities of their own children in their homes.

The devoted Krishnan Araiyar, whose very first presentation inside the Ranganathaswamy temple almost three decades ago, was the verses on Lord Krishna on the occasion of Krishna Jayanthi seemed a satisfied man at the end of 90 minute rendering.

The devotees stayed back for the next couple of hours to watch the Thirumanjanam at the Sri Jayanthi Mandapam. Lord Namperumal provided darshan to the devotees till 6pm on Monday before making his way back to his abode. 

Later in the evening, there was a Thirumanjanam (it was delayed by almost two hours!!!) for Lord Krishna at the Krishna Sannidhi inside the Nazhi Kettan Vaasal.
A day at the Sri Pandaram is enough for even die hard critics to appreciate the extent of restoration that this temple has seen this decade and is sure to set the devotional experience back in one's mind as this Monday showcased to the devotees who were present through the day witnessing the Sri Jayanthi Utsavam at the newly restored Sri Pandaram. 


Anonymous said...

Nice article beautifully designed elaborating the past history of Sripandaram of our Periya Koil with the photos. Enjoyed Thanks.


Anonymous said...

மிக்க அருமை பிரபு சார்....

Anonymous said...

Excellent write up. Even I was not aware of the glory of the 100 pillr mandapam until I read this post. Thank you. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic write up������

Anonymous said...

That was superb piece of narration. I could visualize the entire episodes. Congrats and keep it up

Anonymous said...

Dhanyosmi. A great service. On a lighter note. The sripandaram was run on a contract basis with an annual tender process with income to the Govt.
They contributed to making palagaram, paniyaaram etc in the main madapalli to Our Lord as prasadam. We need to be fair to them also. These have been decades old practice��

Anonymous said...

Excellent article , well thought , a well designed presentation of events. Idahai dharisanam seidhaal janmam sapalyam nichchayam undu.

Unknown said...


Its an Excellent article. Adiyen have learnt a lot of new insights from your writeup.


Anonymous said...

Great. I am delighted to read every word. Your presentation is very very excellent.

Anonymous said...

Excellent narration.

sundar said...

Excellent presentation. One point though.... told to me by chief of seemanthangis - not enough space for tholukku iniyan to turn and go up to the raised mandapa, on the southern side. The columns are too near one another. Was there and saw the difficulty. Solution - to go further south to the edge of the hall and turn.

vinoth said...

Very nice

Anonymous said...

Excellent article swamin. Thanks for sharing. Adiyen have experienced many new information which I haven't heard before.


Anonymous said...

Excellent message swami n. Enjoyed as if witnessing the Happenings @ Sripandaram @ Srirangam Temple on the auspicious occasion of "SRIJAYANTHI"������
Dasan Sutharsanam

Giridhara Gopalan said...

Delighted to read this enlightening blog Bharathwajan. Restoration of Sribandaram and the uthsavam is a great achievement. Your Arayar Sevai must have been the highlight of the utsavam. May our Lord also grant you a P2 position soon.

sampathkumar K said...

We wish we had been there to enjoy the divine outpouring by ArayarSwamy.The article anyway took us thru the celebration and Pallandu Pallandu for the Kainkaryam to the Lord

Anonymous said...

The presentation of events were excellent. Now i am anxious to visit Srirangam temple to see the said changes in the next available opportunity. Thanks for the excellent share

Anonymous said...

Super review. Those who witnessed this are very lucky