Monday, December 31, 2007

NammAzhvaar Moksham in Srirangam

A festival to honour 'Vedham Tamil Seitha Maaran'
Araiyars recite the last of the Paasurams of the Naalayira Divya Prabhandham at the 1000 Pillar Mandapam in Srirangam just after 6am on 30th December and in a dramatic scene, NammAzhvaar falls at the feet of NamPerumal and attains Moksham

“Avaa Aara Choozh Ariyai Ayanai Aranai Alatri ….”

Every Ekadesi has a significance. One saw the significance of Kaisika Ekadesi in a story last month ( ). Vaikunda Ekadesi, which follows the Kaisika Ekadesi, is quite significant as well.

In centuries gone by, Vedas used to be recited very early in the morning. Belief was that 3am-430am in Margazhi was the most auspicious time to learn and recite the Vedas and Prabhandham and thus one benefits the most when one reads the Vedas and Prabhandham at this time.

This is the reason one sees a lot of devotional ‘Prabhandham’ action through the day and night at Vaishnavite temples in Tamil Nadu, the prominent among them being Srirangam, the Koil among Divya Desams. The festival, which runs for just over 20 days, culminates in NammAzhvaar Moksham, on the last day of Ira Pathu.

During this period, the entire 4000 verses of the Prabhandham are recited.

Vaikunda Ekadesi
Legend has it that, to protect the Devas, Vishnu once fought a long battle with an Asura. Shakti, Vishnu's female energy, emerged out of his body and defeated the Asura. A pleased Vishnu named this maiden as Ekadesi and granted her the power to relieve people from the greatest sins, if they observed a fast on this day, and also to help them reach Vaikundam. Vaikunda Ekadesi is a very holy day and is spent fasting, praying and in meditation. Devotees look upon this austerity as a means to succeed in their spiritual endeavour. It is believed that there is no fasting that is even comparable to the Vaikunda Ekadasi fasting, such is its power.

Lord NamPerumal, in all his glory and resplendence, enters the Parama Padha Vaasal (the Gateway to Salvation) early in the morning on the Vaikunda Ekadesi day. Devotees pass through this symbolic Gateway to Heaven or Vaikundam, the abode of Lord Vishnu, to obtain his blessings and grace and to find their way to heaven.

The early days- How it all started
In the very early days, prior to the time of the Azhvaars, there used to be recital of the Vedas before the Lord for 10 days from Vaikunta Ekadesi and this was how it all started.

‘Vedham Tamil Seitha Maaran’- The beginning of a 10 day festival
NammAzhvaar, the greatest among the Azhvaars, was primarily responsible for Naalaayira Divya Prabhandham( it was from NammAzhvaar that Natha Muni picked up the entire content of the Prabhandham- Natha Muni was directed by Aaraavamuthan of Thiru Kudanthai ( ) and hence he is also referred to as ‘Vedham Tamil Seitha Maaran’. When one says just Azhvaar, it means the reference is to Nammazhvaar, such is the reverence for him.

As a mark of honouring the Azhvaar and his contribution to the Prabhandham, Lord NamPerumal himself comes to meet him every year at the 1000 Pillar Mandapam on each of the 10 days following the Vaikunta Ekadesi and listens to Araiyars singing and enacting the Azhvaar praise - 100 Paasurams a day from ThiruvaaiMozhi – for 10 days beginning Vaikunda Ekadesi for a total of 1000 Paasurams during the 10 day Ira Pathu period. All the Azhvaars are also present on the occasion as well as Ramanuja and ThiruKachi Nambi. Thus started the 10day Divya Prabhandham festival.

Madurakavi Azhvaar’s praise of NammAzhvaar
“Kanninun Sirutha Ambinaal
Katunappa Panniya Perumaayan
Ennapanil Nannith Then Kurugur Nambi Yenrakkaal
Anniku Amuthoorum Enraavukey”
(Madura Kavi’s praise of his Lord, NammAzhvaar….The wonder child -My Lord -was held on a leash of rope. And just uttering Kurugur Nambi’s (NammAzhvaar) name is like bringing nectar to oneself)

Pagal Pathu (first 10 days) was added later to recognize Thirumangai Azhvaar’s contribution

Last of the Azhvaars, Thirumangai Azhvaar, also made a significant contribution to the Prabhandham. His biggest contribution to the Srirangam temple was his effort in building the huge fort like walls around the prakaarams. It was also Thirumangai Azhvaar who wanted this to be a Tamil Divya Prabhandham festival(as against just the Vedic recital that existed before his time) and requested the Lord to make this so. And the Lord is said to have agreed.

Nathamuni wanted to create a festival for ThiruMangai Azhvaar for his contribution to the Prabhandham. Thus started the 10 day Pagal Pathu festival (the opening 10 days of the festival) which precedes the Vaikunta Ekadesi. At Srirangam, Lord NamPerumal listens to the 1st 2000 Paasurams at Arjuna Mandapam during the first 10 days.

A specialist Araiyar
Beginning the Amaavasai day in December, the 4000 Divya Prabandham is enacted by the Araiyars (King of Music), the descendents of Natha Muni, who is believed to have introduced the Araiyar Sevai.

Lord Ranganatha himself is said to have given the Araiyars the right to perform the unique musical chanting at Divya Desams and presented them with the cone-like cap, two cymbals and the sacred garland (which they wear around their neck when they perform). Araiyars have been bestowed the special right to start as well as end the Paasurams in Vaishnavite temples through their special song and dance sequence.

The Araiyars first recite the Paasuram, then explain its inner meaning and finally perform the Abhinayam, a unique art/dance performance with their hands and legs explaining the Paasurams with special musical effect.

In centuries gone by, there used to be an Araiyar who was an expert in Paasurams relating to a particular Divya Desam. During these 20 days, different Araiyars would enact Paasurams according to their expertise on the relevant Divya Desams.

NammAzhvaar Moksham
NammAzhvaar didn’t want ‘life’ anymore. He asked for Moksham on the very first day. NammAzhvaar’s desire to attain Moksham is said to have been as big as the sky. Lord, however, wanted to make a positive change to the world through his Paasurams and wanted everyone to absorb the beautiful Paasurams of NammAzhvaar. As the Lord decided that the world should benefit from Nammazhvaar’s Paasurams, he delayed the Moksham of NammAzhvaar till the very last day.

Finally after listening to the beautiful Paasurams of ThiruvaaiMozhi, Lord gives in. The Lord was so taken in by the Paasurams that it is said Lord wanted to take NammAzhvaar to Vaikuntam in the same form. “It was this body that rendered the beautiful Prabhandham to the world and hence I want to take you with me with your body itself” was Lord’s view.

Sunday 30th December 2007 - 1.30am
6 Araiyars(Ramanuja, Sampath, Varadarajan, Narayanan, Rangarajan and Devarajan) arrived at the 1000 Pillar Mandapam at 1.30am and for the next hour and a half they kept the devotees, who had stayed awake late night to witness the Araiyar Sevai, captivated with the enactment of the final 100 paasurams of NammAzhvaar’s ThiruvaaiMozhi.

Araiyars leave - well past 3am in the morning

By the time they had presented this song, dance enactment with the Abhinayam of 90 of the last 100 Paasurams of the Prabhandham, it was 3am. It was once again a tireless effort by the Araiyars. As long as these Araiyars of Srirangam continue to show the passion that they displayed on this night, one can be assured that the Araiyar Sevai, at least in Srirangam, is here to stay for another generation and more.

They went back well after the clock had struck 3 only to return in a couple of hours for the balance 10 paasurams and conclusion of Thiruvaaimozhi.

6am – Back at Thirumaamani Mandapam

NammAzhvaar being brought to Thirumaa Manni Mandapam
At 6am, the 6 Araiyars were back at it again and along with NammAzhvaar make their way to the Thirumaamani Mandapam. With NammAzhvaar placed in front of NamPerumal, the Araiyars begin the recital of the balance 10 paasurams (they had presented 90 of the last 100 paasurams of ThiruvaaiMozhi till 3am earlier that morning).

And as the Araiyars recited the last of Paasurams of Naalaayira Divya Prabhandham, NammAzhvaar falls on the feet of NamPerumal and attains Moksham, quite a dramatic scene. Subsequent to this, NammAzhvaar adorns the garland worn by NamPerumal himself.

The Last verse of Prabhandham
“Avaa Aara Choozh Ariyai Ayanai Aranai Alatri
Avaa Atru Veedu Petra Kurugur Sadagopan Sonna
Avaail Anthaathigalaal Ivai Aayiram Mudintha
Avaail Anthaathi Ippathu Arinthaar Piranthaar Uyarnthey”

(The 1000 songs on the Lord is by Thiru Kurugur Sadagopan who found his liberation(Moksham). Those who master these verses will attain Moksham too)

Contact: Badri Bhattar@ 99943 81930

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Thiru Koodal Azhagar Madurai

Koodal Azhagar is credited with the origination of Thiru Pallandu which constitutes the first 12 verses of the Divya Prabhandham

A thrilled PeriAzhvaar sang ‘Pallandu’ on seeing Koodal Azhagar

The Koodal Azhagar Divya Desam is situated in the heart of Madurai, a km South East of Madurai Junction and half a km South West of Meenakshi Amman Temple.

Three Tier Temple Structure-Lord in all three postures

Lord is seen in all three postures at this Divya Desam. At the base Tier is Koodal Azhagar in a grand sitting posture under the Serpent Lord Aadhiseshan. Climbing about 20 steps on to Tier 1, one sees the Lord in a Sleeping Posture. And another 10 steps above, in Tier 2, is Lord Surya Narayanan in a standing posture.

Temple Tower depicting the Great Epics

In the temple tower at the entrance, one sees the story of the Ramayana and Mahabaratha depicted through sculpture in different tiers of the tower. These sculptures can be closely seen from Tier 1 of the temple and are not to be missed.

PeriAzhvaar’s praise
Pandya king Pururavan contributed a lot for the Koodal Lord. His grandson conquered the North and came back prompting PeriAzhvaar to sing:

பருபதுக்கு கயல் பொறித்த பாண்ட்யர் குலபதிபோல்
திரு பொழிந்த சேவடி
என் சென்னியின் மேல் பொறித்தாய் மறு போசிதாய்
என்றென்றும் வாசகமே
உரு பொழிந்த நாவிநேனை உணகுரிதாகினையே

Later, another Pandya king Vallabadevan wanted to know the Lord with the power to show the way to Paramapatham, the heavenly abode. The King hung a Golden Parrot with the announcement that the parrot would automatically fall, once someone informs him of the right Lord to Paramapatham. Several came and went back without success.

It is believed that the Koodal Lord appeared in the dreams of Vallabadevan’s priest Selvanambi and suggested the name of PeriAzhvaar of Srivilliputhur. Accordingly, PeriAzhvaar was brought to the court of the Pandya King in Madurai. With several examples from vedic scriptures as well as historical references, PeriAzhvaar showcased to the Pandya King that Lord Vishnu was the Lord who could take one to the heavenly abode. And to every one’s surprise the parrot fell down.

The Azhvaar taken on a Street procession in Koodal
A delighted Pandya king praised PeriAzhvaar and took him on an elephant procession through the streets of Madurai. Legend has it that Koodal Azhagar himself came to see this sight on his Garuda Vaahanam.
பாண்ட்யன் கொண்டாட பட்டர் பிரான் வந்தான் என்று …….”

PeriAzhvaar’s Thiru Pallaandu
Delighted at the sight of the Koodal Lord, PeriAzhvaar showered praises with his Pallaandu. Hence, Koodal Azhagar is credited with origination of ThiruPallaandu, which now has come to be sung as the first 12 songs of the Divya Prabhandham. Being the place where PeriAzhvaar sang the now famous Pallaandu, this place is considered equivalent to Paramapatham.

The Pandya Symbol
Pandya king Sathya Varadan undertook penance before the Koodal Lord, who gave him darshan inside a sacred tumbler, as a fish. This is stated to be the reason for the Pandyas to have ‘Fish’ as their symbol in their flags.

Vaigai River in Madurai

At Sathya Logam, Brahmma washed the legs of Lord Vishnu, after his Trivikrama Avataaram, the sacred water drops of which fell on Madurai. These sacred drops spread as two rivers, Vaigai and Krithumala. Koodal Azhagar temple is on the banks of Kruthumala river.

The drawings of all the 108 divya desams can be seen on the walls of the prakaram.

This is the only divya desam with a Navagraha Sannidhi

Vaikasi Brahmotsavam
Maasi Theppotsavam
Panguni Uthiram

Quick Facts

Moolavar    : Koodal Azhagar Sitting Posture East Facing
Goddess     : Madhura Valli Thaayar
Paasurams : Thirumangai Azhvaar(1), ThiruMazhisaiAzhvaar (1)

Temple time : 6am –12noon and 4pm-9pm
Priest        :  Ramakrishnan Bhattar @ 97890 20344 / Raja Bhattar @ 94420 28447

Place to Stay :
College House(Rs. 300-500), Hotel Supreme/Madurai Residency(Rs. 1000+)
Madurai Junction Retiring Room is the recommended place to stay( Rs. 250-Rs.600)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thiru Thangal Ninra Narayanan Temple

Only Divya Desam with 11 idols inside the Sanctum
‘Garuda seen together with his enemy Aadhiseshan’ is a unique feature at this Divya Desam

4 kms east of the cracker town of Sivakasi on the Srivilliputhur - Virudhanagar road, is the Ninra Narayana Divya Desam in Thiru Thangal. The Lord is seen in a standing posture atop a hill (the Thangal Malai). At the Western entrance is the Lord Ranganatha Sannidhi from where one has to climb around 15 steps to reach the Ninra Narayanan Sannidhi.

The temple, which has been renovated in the last few years thanks to help from local industrialists, now wears a new, bright look inside. The Andaal Divya Desam at Srivilliputhur is about 25Kms(West) from here.

A war of words between the 3 Devis
A fight arose between the three Devis- Sri Devi, BhooDevi and NeelaDevi- as to who was the senior most among the three and the favourite of the Lord. To prove her status, SriDevi came down to this place and undertook penance near the ‘Thangala hills’. Pleased with her prayers, Lord Vishnu appeared before her and acknowledged that she was his favourite. In memory of this event, this place came to be called ‘Sri’ Puram. It is believed that Bhoodevi and Neeladevi agreed with this verdict of the Lord and decided to stay here at this place.

Aadi Trip to SriVilliputhur

Every year, on the 5th day of the Tamil month of Aadi, ThiruThangal Appan goes to SriVilliputhur, about 25kms from here. PeriyaAzhvaar praises the Lord in the morning, while Garuda Sevai is a special feature in the evening. The next morning, 6th day of Aadi, ThiruThangal Appan takes flowers from Andaal, another unique occurrence.

11 idols inside the sanctum
Inside the sanctum, one can see as many as 11 idols, the only Divya Desam to have these many idols within the sanctum. The idols are: Deiveeka Vasudevan, Sridevi, Neeladevi, Bhoomadevi, Brigu Rishi, Markandeya Rishi, Garuda, Arunan (Suryan’s Charioteer), Anirudhan, Ushai and Jambavathi (only temple to have an image of Jambavathi).

Garuda and Serpent Lord Aadhiseshan
A unique feature at this Divya Desam is that Garuda is seen along with his traditional enemy, ‘The Serpent Lord Aadhiseshan’. Garuda is also seen adorned with jewellery.

Krishna’s grandson wedding at ThiruThangal
Krishna’s grandson Anirudhan got married at this place to Baanaasuran’s daughter Ushai. It is believed that Deiveega Vasudevan came down to attend this wedding.

A fight between Sacred Banyan tree and Aadhiseshan
Once a fight arose between a sacred Banyan tree and Aadhiseshan as to who was more powerful. They went up to Brahmma who decided in favour of Aadhiseshan as it was on the Serpant Lord that Lord Vishnu slept. Unhappy with Brahmma’s decision, the sacred tree undertook penance seeking Vishnu’s blessings. The Lord asked him to go to ThiruThangal and take the form of a hill. Fulfilling his wish, the Lord would come there to the hill and accept SriDevi, who was undertaking penance, at the foot of the hill.

Aani Brahmotsavam
Aavani Pavitrotsavam
Puratasi Garuda Sevai
Chitra Pournami- 3 day procession

Quick Facts

Moolavar    : Ninra Naarayanan East Facing Standing Posture
Goddess     : Shengamalar Thaayar
Utsavar      : ThiruThangal Appan
Paasurams  : BhoothathAzhvaar (1), ThirumangaiAzhvaar(4)
Temple time: 6am-12noon and 4pm-8pm
Priest          : Anantha Sayana Bhattar @ 94435 70765

How to reach
Bus : Frequent buses fromVirudanagar (25kms), Sivakasi and Srivilliputhur. Mini buses ply every 5-10 mts between Sivakasi and ThiruThangal. Train: Chennai Shengottai Podhigai Express stops at ThiruThangal (615am arrival)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thiru Mogur Kaalamegha Perumal

Mohana Kshetram -Lord Vishnu takes the form of Mohini
One’s difficulties will go away if one goes around the Thiru Mogur Lord just once

 Located 10kms East of Madurai off the Madurai Melur Road is the Kaalamegha Perumal Divya Desam  in Thiru Mogur, . In centuries gone by, this place was identified as being 1 Yojana from ThiruMaalirinCholai (to be seen later in this series) and South of the Elephant rock (Astha Giri).

The huge Astha Giri can be seen even today. It is worth stopping on the highway (Madurai-Madras route) to see this elephant shaped rock that runs quite a distance.

Lord Vishnu takes the form of ‘Mohini’
Once Devas wanted the boon of ‘immortality’. Seeing Vishnu grant Devas their wish, the Asuras too wanted a share of the nectar, leading to a fight between the two. To protect the devas, Lord Vishnu took the form of a ‘Mohini’. Lost in the beauty of the ‘Mohini’, the asuras forgot about the nectar. And thus Vishnu successfully shared the nectar exclusively with the Devas.

Lord Vishnu helped recover the Vedic Scriptures from two Asuras - Madhu and Kaidapan who had stolen it from Brahmma. It was at this place that Brahmma performed daily poojas, directed at Lord Vishnu, as a gesture to thank the Lord for fighting the Asuras and securing back the Vedic Scriptures.

It is said that Brahmma wanted to see the Lord as ‘Narayana’ and not in his Mohini form. Hence, it is said that Lord Vishnu appeared before Brahmma at this place as Kaalamegha Perumal.

A unique sleeping posture - Prarthana Sayanam
At this temple, one can also find the Lord in a Sleeping posture and quite a unique one at that. This posture of the Lord is called ‘Prarthana Sayanam’, where Sridevi and Bhoodevi are seen praying, at the feet of the sleeping Lord. The sleeping Lord is said to be one before he took the Mohini Avataaram.
(The other sleeping postures are Veera Sayanam, Anantha Sayanam, Baala Sayanam, Uthaana Sayanam, Sthala Sayanam, Bogha Sayanam)

“Pallikonda Paambanai Thirumogur……………”

Lord as a Maarga Bandhu
Kaalamegha Perumal is said to be a close friend of the devotees and is said to be one who provides direction and guides the devotees who come to him for Moksham. Hence he is also referred to as ‘Maarga Bandhu’.

A unique ChakkarathAzhvaar

The ChakkarathAzhvaar at Thiru Moghur temple can be seen with 16 hands and 16 arms. There is an inscription containing 154 letters signifying Hiranya Samhaaram as well as 48 images of different Lords. This is the only Divya Desam with such sacred letters and images inscribed on ChakkarathAzhvaar.

NammAzhvaar Praise
NammAzhvaar praises the Lord saying all the difficulties will go away if one just goes around Kaalamegha Perumal once.

“Matru Ilam Aran Vaan Perum Pazh Thani Muthalaasutrum
Neer Padaithu Athan Vazhithol Muni Muthalaa ,
Mutrum Devarodu Ulagu Seivaan ThiruMogur
Sutri Naam Valanjcheyya, Nam Thuyar Kedum Kadithey’

Darshan as Thirupaarkadal Naathan

Wanting to see the Lord churning the ocean to secure the nectar, Sage Palasthiyar undertook penance here. Pleased with his prayers, Lord appeared before him and gave him darshan. Hence there is a separate sannidhi for the Lord as ‘Thirupaarkadal Naathan’.

Shiva was attracted to the Lord in the Mohini form and wanted to embrace her. Hence, Lord Vishnu actually created another Mohini here at this place.

Another feature here is that Lord Adiseshan is fully adorned with gold ornaments.

Festivals : Vaikasi Brahmotsavam, Puratasi Pavitrosatvam, Margazhi Adyaana Utsavam, Maasi Gajendra Moksham

Quick Facts

Deity             : Kalamegha Perumal East Facing Standing Posture
Thayar               : Mohana Valli Thaayar
Utsavar          : Thiru Mogur Aapthaan, Kodamaadu Koothan
Temple timing  : 7am-12noon and 4pm-8pm

Priest     : Ramakrishna Bhattar @ 0452 2422744 or 98425 24325 or Govindan Bhattar @ 95000 43011
Address : 7 East Mada Street, Thiru Mogur 625 107

Bus : From Madurai Maatuthaavani Bus stand, one can take the Melur bus and get down at Othakadai stop (about 3 kms). From OthaKadai, one can either take a mini bus / share auto (2kms to Mogur) or an auto - Rs. 30. For Cab to go around Divya Desams in the Madurai region, Contact: Manimaran @ 99659 99222/ Vinod @ 96773 23382

Place to Stay : Best to stay in Madurai (College House, Hotel Supreme, Madurai Residency)
Retiring Room at the Railway Station ranks as one of the best in TN

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ashes- Boxing Day Test Match -Australia V England 1982

From the memories of Radio Commentary
Ashes Boxing Day Test - 25 years Ago
This 1982 Ashes test, the fourth in the series, remains unparalleled in recent memory, in the way both teams ran each other close in both innings and for its dramatic finish

Later this month, India will begin their quest for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at the MCG, with the Boxing Day test match (on December 26) being the first of the four tests.

Every year, The Boxing Day Test Match is one of the highlights of Australia’s cricket season and attracts the biggest crowd of the summer. Recent reports suggest that ticket sales for the Australia-India first test haven’t been all that bright.

This month’s story on cricket tales takes a look(from my Radio Australia memories) at the Boxing Day Test of 1982.

Australia (with non packer players) had lost the previous home ashes (1978-79) series 5-1 ( The 1981 Ashes in England seemed to be going the Aussie way until a rejuvenated Botham (after relinquishing the captaincy) came and spoilt the party. Australia was thus staring at the possibility of a hat trick of Ashes losses.

Same look England squad
Several of the previous Ashes winning England team were part of this tour. Bob Willis was now the captain (While 1981 is referred to as the Botham’s Ashes, RGD Willis had played a key role in that series including in that Headingly Test), Botham had blossomed into a dominant force in world cricket, David Gower was at the peak of his prowess and Derek Randall, who had impressed one and all with his batting and flashy fielding in the 1978-79 Ashes, was still around.

Graeme Fowler (Indians would best remember him for his double hundred at Chepauk, Madras in the 1984-85 series), who is now a well known TMS expert on the BBC, was trying to establish himself on the international scene.

Geoff Miller, who had made a big impression in 78-79 Ashes in Australia, was back here as the lead spinner of the series.

England had found a new hero from South Africa, Allan Lamb, and a lot was expected from him (While on the topic of South African import, Australia too had one…Kepler Wessels was in his debut series. And for a while, that decade, he played a critical role for Australia at the top of the order).

It was a strong all round English team that seemed ready to take on the challenge of the Aussies.

The Aussie team, on the other hand, wore a different look from the previous Ashes. Greg Chappell was back as the captain having not figured in the previous 2 losses. The dashing David Hookes was back to taunt the Englishmen (remember his 5 successive fours of Tony Grieg in the late 70s). As mentioned above, Australia found an import that proved most beneficial to them through the 1980s. Kepler Wessels, who had played for Queensland(South Africa was under Apartheid ban)in the Sheffield Shield, made his Test debut in this series with a match winning century and was to remain an integral part of the team.

Allan Border and Kim Hughes were really the only batsmen who were part of both the 78-79 and 1981 losses.

A weakened Aussie Bowling
The attack was spearheaded by Thommo and a young Geoff Lawson (now the Pakistan coach). Alderman had a freak accident in the first test on his home ground and didn’t feature again. Lillee too played just the one test in the series. Rodney Hogg, who had a phenomenal debut series in 1978-79, was around but not the same force as before.

Through the late 70s and the 80s, Australia struggled on the spin bowling front - Jim Higgs, Peter Sleep and Bob Holland had all played at different points of time but none really created a lasting impression. The one who had reasonable success during the early 1980s was Bruce Yardley, who was the spinner in this series.

Hence it was rather a shaky bowling line up for the Aussies.

The Boxing Day Test Match of 1982-Cliff Hanger
25 years ago, the 1982 Boxing Day test (the 4th test in the series) attracted a huge crowd with Australians gunning to regain the Ashes. England came into this test 2-0 down, after back to back defeats at the Gabba and the Adelaide Oval. They had to win at the MCG to give themselves a chance of retaining the Ashes.

During the first three tests, the English batting had remained inconsistent. Gower, Fowler, Randall and Lamb had all run up big scores in one test or other but did not combine together well. Willis and Botham had led the bowling attack well but batters had let them down.

For the Australians, Chappell was in fine form and Wessels had had a sensational debut. David Hookes showed flashes of his brilliance. A fiery Lawson more than made up for Lillee’s absence. Thomson had a point to prove - that he was still a force to reckon with. And a force he was in this series (he not only contributed with the ball, but with the bat as well as seen below).

Coming into this test, the pressure was on England to go for the win (a draw was enough for Australia to regain the Ashes). And what a match it turned out to be. As seen often, close and dramatic matches are typically the ones where big totals are not posted by either of the teams.

Slowest Test Batsman
In the first half of that decade, England found a batsmen who possibly would rank as one of the most boring in test history. Chris Tavare, with Kent then and later Somerset, would, that decade, play some of the dourest innings’ in tests (closest may be a Shoaib Mohammed, but at least he had a solid technique).

However, it was Tavare’s innings of 89 on Boxing Day, that was the highlight of Day 1along with the strokeful 80 of Allan Lamb on what was yet another poor batting display by England.

Norman Cowans’ wickets in successive balls including Chappell’s for a first ball duck brought England back into the match on day 2. David Hookes scored a typically dashing half century to help Australia close in on England. However, a late order collapse meant only 3 runs separated the teams after the first innings, with Australia getting the psychological advantage of the lead.

English Collapse on Day 3
Having fought back well with the ball to be on level terms after the first innings, England collapsed on day 3. David Gower failed again and England seemed to be out of the match (and the series) at 6/160. For a while, Botham brought back memories of 1981 with a dashing knock and threatened to repeat the ‘comeback’ effort. However, with his dismissal at 200, England was still in big trouble.

41 year old Bob Taylor does it again
4 years earlier, in the 1978-79 Ashes, Bob Taylor, had played a crucial 2nd innings knock in the Adelaide test (5th test in the series) to get England back from almost a similar situation. England had led by 5 runs on first innings then but had collapsed to 150/6 in the 2nd innings, before Taylor played a gutsy knock, along with Geoff Miller, to take England past 350 - England won that match.

(In between, Taylor had also played a gritty knock in Bombay in the Golden Jubilee-Botham’s Test in 1980).

This time, Taylor combined with Derek Pringle (almost half his age), to pull England out of the dumps to give respectability to its 2nd innings. From 200/7, the two helped England post a score of 294, leaving Australia to score 292 to win.

England discovers a fast bowler for the future
On the 4th day, England was to find an unlikely hero. While the Englishmen were looking for a big effort from Willis and Botham, it was a young, bustling 21 year old from Jamaica who ripped through the Aussie top and middle order on day 4 to leave Australia reeling. Aussies had no answer to Norman Cowans’ pace and despite another typically dashing 60 from David Hookes, Australia collapsed on the 4th afternoon.

That afternoon, it looked like Cowans would have a long career with England. However, it turned out to be a one off performance and he faded away quickly without much glory. Cowans’ burst that day left Australia at 218/9, on the 4th evening, needing another 70+ when Jeff Thomson joined an out of form Allan Border. Border had not scored a fifty yet in the series.

Final Session on Day 4
Given this, it did seem to be only a matter of time before England wrapped up the test and reduce the series lead to 2-1, but it was not to be. Through that session, England adopted the strategy of giving away a single to the out of form Border to try and get last man Thommo out.

Border had done very little of note in the series until the evening session on day 4. And yet, quite shockingly, he was allowed to get back into form thanks to a strategy that several captains seem to follow when a top order batsman is batting alongside a tail ender. With every passing minute that evening, the tension mounted and Thomson and Border were gaining in confidence.

They had added 40 runs that evening and saw through till stumps with Australia requiring a further 35 on the final morning.

A Tense Final Morning
And the same story continued through the first hour on the final morning. Border reached his first fifty of the series and Thomson was sticking around along with AB. The final wicket pair seemed to be taking Australia to an unlikely win at the MCG and thus a series win and the Ashes.

But this Boxing Day Test Match was destined to be an all time great Ashes test. And we were to witness(hear) one final twist to the proceedings.

A dramatic Catch by Geoff Miller to end the Test Match
With just a boundary required to win, Thomson edged Botham to Tavare (quite a safe slipper), who let it slip and the ball popped out. In a reflex action, Geoff Miller went behind Tavare to grab the rebound to give England a dramatic 3 run win and get them back in the series. Border and Thomson had almost pulled it off for Australia but the remarkable Miller catch saved the blushes for England.

The 4th evening and 5th morning had provided great excitement, especially to listen to it live on the radio, in those non- TV days.

25 years hence, the Miller effort still remains a catchy photograph - going behind Tavare to give England victory. We have several great Ashes battles since this Boxing Day Test match of 1982 (including some exciting finishes in 2005), but this Ashes test remains unparalleled in recent memory in the way the two teams ran each other close in both innings and ranks as an all time great Boxing Day Clash.

The scores: England 284 and 294 Australia 287 and 288.

(England could only draw the fifth test at the SCG and thus Australia regained the Ashes)

Commentators: Alan McGilvary, Jim Maxwell and Denis Compty, Expert- Norman O’Neil

Friday, December 7, 2007

Thirucherai Saranathan Divya Desam

The Divya Desam where Lord Vishnu is seen with five Goddesses

Located about 3 kms South of Nachiyar Koil (about 15 kms from Kumbakonam on the Tiruvarur highway) is the Saranathan Perumal Divya Desam in Thiru Cherai. This is part of the Krishnaaranya Kshetram and is between Nachiyaar koil and Thiru Kannamangai Divya Desam.

Brahmma who wanted to save the Vedas tried to preserve its content in a mud pot. Every time, he tried making the pot, it broke down. He looked up to Vishnu for solution and was asked to go Thiru Cherai to collect the sand for the making of the pot.

Ganga the most sacred
Once Ganga, Cauvery and other big rivers (transforming themselves into young girls) were playing at the foot of the Vindhya Hills. A Gandharva, who was passing by, waited for a minute and saluted them. Curious to know who he looked at, they approached the Gandharva who answered that his salute was addressed at the senior most among them.

While the rest of them gave way, Ganga and Cauvery got into an argument as to who was senior among the two and went to Brahmma for the decision. Brahmma pronounced that the water he used for the special pooja of Lord Vishnu flowed down as the Ganges and hence she was the most sacred.

Dejected by this, Cauvery was eager to get herself a similar stature and undertook penance at Thiru Cherai invoking the blessings of Lord Vishnu.

Pleased with her penance, he appeared before her and fulfilling the promise to her chose to reside in Srirangam on the banks of Cauvery (

Renovation of the temple
Naayak King of Thanjavur, who was attached to Vishnu temples, sent construction materials to Mannargudi for the construction of the Rajagopalaswamy temple. A minister of the king decided to bring a few bricks on every trip to Thiru Cherai for the renovation of this temple.

Suspecting this, the king decided on a sudden inspection. A worried minister prayed to Rajagopalaswamy and to the surprise of the Nayak King, the Mannargudi Lord is said to have appeared before the king at Thirucherai, at the time of the inspection. A delighted king immediately allocated funds towards the construction and renovation of the Thirucherai temple.

In his Periya Thirumozhi, Thiru Mangai Azhvaar has praised the location as being amidst fragrant groves and water lilies filled lakes.

Big Chariot
The temple has a big chariot comparable in size to the chariot of Sarangapaani temple

Quick Facts

Moolavar   : Saaranathan -Standing Posture facing East
Thayar       : Saara Naayaki
Azhvaar     : Thirumangai Azhvaar (Periya Thirumozhi 7.4)
Temple time : 7am-12noon and 4pm-7pm

Priest : Ramudu Bhattar @ 94441 04374,0435-2468078, 0435 2468001

How to reach
Thiru Cherai is about 3 kms from Nachiyar Koil on the way to Thiru Kannamangai and just under 15kms from Kumbakonam on the Tiruvarur highway. Buses ply every 15 minutes from Kumbakonam. 

Place to Stay : Best to stay in Kumbakonam

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Nachiyar Koil Thiru Naraiyur

Temple of Special prominence for Goddess
The Place where Thiru Mangai Mannan was initiated the ‘Pancha Samaskaaram’ by Thiru Naraiyur Nambi
Garuda Sevai is special at this place for Kal Garuda increases in weight manifold - While only 4 people carry him out of the sannidhi, 128 people are required to carry him out of the temple
Located 10kms from Kumbakonam on the Thiruvarur Road is the 5th Century AD Nachiyar Koil in Thiru Naraiyur. Built by the Chozha King Ko Chengan Chozhan, the Nachiyar Koil has 16 Gopurams including the 5 Tiered Raja Gopuram. Ko Chengan had already built 70 Saivite Temples and this one, the 71st, was his first Vaishnavite temple. Hence, this temple has a lot of resemblance to Saivite temples, in its form and structure.

Thirumangai Azhvaar has dedicated an entire set of 10verses in his Periya Thirumozhi crediting Ko Chenganan for his construction of Nachiyar Koil (

Prominence to Nachiyar at the Thiru Naraiyur temple
Lord was of the view that in Kali Yugam men would have to listen to women ( husband to listen to wife’s words). Hence, much before that, he decided that he would first serve as an example and listen to the Goddess here. On all occasions, the first rights are reserved for the Nachiyar. Even the food is first served to the Nachiyar and only then to the Naraiyur Nambi.

Being a temple where Goddess has prominence, one can see the Lord slightly by the side and the Goddess is the one who has the prominent position inside the sanctum. Even from the entrance of the temple, one gets a glimpse of Vanjulavalli Nachiyar.

Naachiyaar Koil in Thiru Naraiyur is one of the few Divya Desams where Goddess has prominence over the Lord. Some of the other Divya Desams where Goddess is dominant are Srivilliputhur, Uraiyur and Thiruvellarai. While Srivilliputhur is called Nachiyar Thiru Maligai, Thiru Naraiyur is called Nachiyar Koil. There is no separate Sannidhi for Goddess and she is always seen together with the Lord. This is the only Divya Desam where Lord is seen with a conch and charka in front of his face.

Thiru Naraiyur Nambi initiates Pancha Samaskaaram to ThiruMangai Azhvaar
Thiru Mangai Mannan (Neelan) who was the army chief of a Chozha king fell in love with Kumudhavalli. She was to accept him only if he came to her with a true Vaishnavite identity. ThiruMangai Mannan looked to ThiruNaraiyur Lord to give him the Vaishnava identity and help him secure the hand of Kumudhavalli.

Thiru Naraiyur Nambi is said to have initiated ThiruMangai Mannan with the Pancha Samaskaaram, which is the true identity for a Vaishnavite. Thus, Thiru Mangai Mannan became Thiru Mangai Azhvaar.

What is Pancha Samaskaaram – The identity of a real Vaishnavite
1. 12 Thiru Naamam on the body (fore head, arms, chest, on the back….)
2. To include the name of an Acharya in one’s name
3. To have the ‘chakra’ seal inscribed on the left hand
4. To first serve the Lord with food every day and
5. To understand and utter the Thiru Mandhiram

Only Divya Desam Lord to have offered Pancha Samaskaaram
Thiru Naraiyur Nambi is the only Divya Desam Lord to have offered the Pancha Samaskaram initiation to anyone. As a mark of initiating the Pancha Samaskaaram on the Azhvaar, Lord Srinivasa is seen leaning forward slightly, quite a unique sight at this temple.

Thiru Naraiyur Lord praised as Nambi
Lords of only a few Divya Desams have been praised as Nambi. The most prominent among them is Thiru Kurungkudi, the other one being the Lord here who is referred to as Thiru Naraiyur Nambi. An Achaarya is referred to as Nambi and since Thiru Naraiyur Lord initiated the Pancha Samaskaram to ThiruMangai Mannan, he became the Achaarya of Thiru Mangai Azhvaar and hence the Azhvaar referred to him as ‘Thiru Naraiyur Nambi’.

ThiruNaraiyur Nambi is also credited with the bringing together of Thirumangai Azhvaar and Kumudhavalli, as he was the one who initiated the Pancha Samaskaram to the Azhvaar, making him a true Vaishnavite.

ThiruMangai Azhvaar’s 110 Paasurams on the ThiruNaraiyur Nambi
Recognising this special initiation of Pancha Samaskaaram, ThiruMangai Azhvaar praised the Lord with over 100 Paasurams, the highest for any temple. The only other Lord that ThiruMangai Azhvaar has praised with a 100 Paasurams was Thiru Kannapuram Sowri Rajan Perumal, where the Lord explained the Thiru Mandhiram to Thirumangai Azhvaar.

‘Mathil Inghe, Madal Anghe’ says ThiruMangai to Srirangam Lord Ranganatha
As seen in the earlier story on Srirangam, Thiru Mangai Azhvaar had built the wall at Srirangam Ranganatha temple ( So pleased with Lord Ranganatha with ThiruMangai Azhvaar that he wanted him to praise him with Madal - Love Letters to the Lord.

However, Thiru Mangai Azhvaar told Ranganatha that the Madal was dedicated solely to the Naraiyur Lord: “Mathil Inghe, Madal Anghe” meaning ‘Wall in Srirangam” and “Letters in Thiru Naraiyur”. He composed two Madals - Periya ThiruMadal and Siriya ThiruMadal.

The temple has been built in such a way that one can see the sanctum even from outside the temple premises. With several layers, each comprising of several steps, leading to the sannidhi, the sanctum looks like being atop a hill, on first looks from the temple entrance.

Kal Garuda (Garuda made in stone)

Garuda, the vehicle of the lord, is of special significance at this temple. The story goes that a sculptor who was creating an image of Garuda suddenly found the idol flying after he had made its wings. Shocked at this sudden action, the sculptor threw a stone at Garuda and struck him on the nose. Garuda came falling down and decided to settle here at this place and bless the devotees.

A huge and well built Lord Garuda is seen just next to Lord Srinivasa’s Sannidhi. In the Tamil month of Aadi, Thiru Naraiyur Nambi makes a visit to Garuda’s Sannidhi.
A magical Event - Garuda increases in weight manifold
During street procession (Margazhi and Panguni), an unbelievable event takes place at the Nachiyar Koil. While only 4 people carry Lord Garuda out of his Sannidhi, as the Lord goes out of each Layer and prakaram, he is said to increase in weight, that 8 people, 16 and then 32 people are required to carry Lord Garuda out of the temple. Finally, when the Lord is taken outside the temple, Garuda increases in weight so much that 128 people are required to carry the Lord. On his way back, it is said that Garuda mount decreases in weight and finally when he is back in the Sannidhi, only 4 people are required to carry him.

Kal Garuda is said to answer the prayers of devotees immediately and remove all Doshams. Childless couples, unmarried women, people with Naaga Dosham will also be relieved if they pray to the Kal Garuda at Thiru Naraiyur temple.

Idols of all 108 Divya Desams at Nachiyar Koil
An old Brahmin wanted to see all the Divya Desams. However, he could not visit because of his old age. The old Brahmin prayed before ThiruNaraiyur Nambi, who is said to have given the idols of all the 108 Divya Desam Lords to the Brahmin. This is the only Divya Desam where the idols of all the 108 Divya Desams can be seen.

In his Periya Thirumozhi praise on Thiru Naraiyur, Thiru Mangai Azhvaar refers to Naraiyur Nambi as the Lord whom he saw in different postures in several other Divya Desam Lords.

Another unique feature at this Divya Desam is that the Vimaanam above the Sanctum Sanctum is like a tower. This is the only Divya Desam where one finds a 10 feet Brahmma in a standing posture within the sanctum. In other Divya Desams one finds the image of Brahmma on the wall.

Krishnaaranya Kshetram
Nachiyar Koil is the beginning of the Krishnaaranya Kshetram. This continues at Thiru Cherai, Thiru Kannamangai and finally ends at Thiru Kannangudi, near Nagapattinam.

Quick Facts
Deity            : Thiru Naraiyur Nambi, Srinivasa Perumal Standing Posture facing East
Goddess       : VanjulaValli
Azhvaar       : Thirumangai Azhvaar-110 verses
Temple time : 630am –12.30pm and 430pm-830pm
 Contact      : Gopinathan Bhattar@ 94435 97388 / 0435 2467167

Bus : Buses every 15minutes from Kumbakonam (Tiruvarur bound). Auto from Kumbakonam Railway Station will cost Rs. 200/-

Place to Stay : Best to stay in Kumbakonam (VPR Lodge, Hotel Green Park, Raya’s)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Divya Desam-Kaisika Ekadesi

Paraasara Bhattar composed the Kaisika Puraanam and created the Vyaakyaanam
Karpoora Padi Etra Sevai - Showering of Camphor Powder on NamPerumal in Srirangam


Kaisika Ekadesi is said to be more important for Vaishnavites than even the Vaikunta Ekadesi festival. Kaisika Ekadesi is celebrated in the Tamil month of Karthigai and precedes Vaikunta Ekadesi. Those who undertake fast and sing and/ or listen to the Kaisika Puraanam on the Kaisika Ekadesi day, are said to attain Vaikuntam Moksham.

Kaisika Puranam, which is a part of Varaaha Puraanam and comprises several hundred songs- all in small stanzas- shows Lord Narayana as the ultimate supreme force and is a case study in this modern money making world of keeping up one’s word at the cost of anything, even life.

This year’s Kaisiki Ekadesi festival took place on Wednesday 21st November 2007.

Thiru Kurungkudi - Home of Kaisika Ekadesi
Thiru Kurungkudi is said to be the home to the Vaishnava tradition of ‘Kaisika Ekadesi’ and Kaisika Natakam (drama)- worship of the Lord through dance, music and drama is a special event at the Thiru Kurungudi Nambi temple on the Kaisika Ekadesi day- an event that dates back several hundred years. Kaisiki Natakam, which was performed in Thiru KurungKudi with great fanfare had been stopped in the middle of the last century. Only recently has it been revived thanks to the efforts of Anita Ratnam of the TVS family.

This series on Divya Desam today takes a look at the history of Kaisika Ekadesi and the night long events that took place at the Srirangam Ranganatha Temple on 21st November 2007.

Paraasara Bhattar -The man who composed the Kaisika Puraanam
Parasara Bhattar took the story of a complex Kaisika Puraanam (in Sanskrit) and composed it in a simple, easily understandable language. He made it more interesting by analysing the different Avataarams of Lord Vishnu and showcasing Varaaha Avataaram as the best and the purest, despite the Lord taking the form of a pig
( Human beings typically give pigs the poorest treatment). In the Varaaha Avataaram, the Lord took the form of a pig and yet save the world.

Paraasara Bhattar dissected the Kaisika Puraanam and created the vyakyaanam for the entire Kaisika Puraanam, which was hitherto non existent.

The Story of Kaisika Puraanam
Kaisika Puraanam is the story of a Chandala, a low caste person and his love for the Lord. Nambaaduvaan was a great devotee of ThiruKurungudi Nambi (a Divya Desam about 30 kms South East of Tirunelveli and near Nanguneri). But he was rather embarrassed to enter the temple during the day as he belonged to a lower caste (similar to TirupaanAzhvaar who felt shy to enter the Srirangam Ranganatha Temple).

Nambaaduvan was a ‘Jaagrutha Vrathan’, one who comes out when all others are sleeping. Every night, he would walk several miles to the Thiru Kurungudi Nambi temple and for hours together, he would stand before the Lord Nambi with the Veena in his hand and sing praise of him. And before dawn, he would go back to his place, so no one noticed his presence at the temple.

An evil force stops him
One night, as he was making his way to the temple, a Brahmma Raakshasha(a huge demon) stopped him and wanted Nambaaduvan for dinner, claiming he was quite hungry. Nambaaduvan requested Raakshasha to allow him to go to the temple for a night, so he could sing praise of the Lord one last time and that he would come back in the morning for the Raakshasha to consume him.

The Raakshasha laughed out stating no one in this world would be foolish enough to let go a handy prey. Wanting to meet the Lord one last time, Nambaaduvan requested the Raakshasha several times.

Unable to convince him, Namaaduvan finally tells the Raakshasha: “ The world was created through Sathya Sankalpam- Promises- and continues to exist as a result of the promises. It is because of the Lord’s Sathya Sankalpam that the world is seeing peace today.”

18 promises of Nambaaduvan
Hence, I promise to you that I will return. Nambaaduvan makes 18 promises that night to the Raakshasha and states that if he fails even in one of those 18 promises, he will be a party to 18 sins.

“Oruvanukku Onru Kudakaren Enru Solli
Athai Kodaatha Nirkiravan
Yaavanoruvan Paavathai Adaya Kadaven”

“Pankthibhetham Pannugira Oruvan
Avan Paavathai Adaya Kadaven”

“Brahmananukku Bhoomi Dhaanam Panni
Meendum Athai Abaharikiraano
Avan Paavathai Adaya Kadaven”

The 18th Promise of Nambaaduvan
The 18th promise of Nambaaduvan is the essence of the Kaisika Puraanam and the reason why Kaisika Ekadesi and Kaisika Puraanam are most important to a Vaishnavite, even more than the Vaikunta Ekadesi.

“Swarva Swamiyum MokshaPradhaana Sriman Naarayananaiyum
DevathaiGalaiyum Samamaaga Bhaavikiren Yaavaroruvan
Avanai Poley Nithya Samsaari Yaaven”

Nambaaduvan says “If one ever tries equating Lord Naaraayana to anyone else in this world, I will be a party to the biggest sin in the world. And I will never get Moksham from this cycle of births”

This promise reinforces the belief that Lord Naarayana was the one and only supreme force in those days and that he is incomparable.

Through these 18 promises narrated in the Kaisika Puraanam, as part of this discussion between Nambaaduvan and Brahmma Raakshasha, one comes to know of the different sins we commit every day in our lives as a result of not fulfilling some of the basic things we should do.

This promise convinced the Raakshasha that Nambaaduvan would return and he let him go. Nambaaduvan then leaves the Raakshasha and walks to the ThiruKurungudi temple to sing praise of the Lord, for possibly the last time. He spends the entire night in front of the Thirukurungkudi Nambi and then makes his way back to the Raakshasha as promised.

Nambaaduvan showcases the way to live
On the way, an old Brahmin stops Nambaaduvan and asks the reason for him rushing back, much in contrast to his usually slow and thoughtful walk. Nambaaduvan explains his situation to the Brahmin, who condemns him as a fool and offers protection from the Raakshasha.

Nambaaduvan however rejects this offer stating that he has promised the Raakshasha that he would come back before dawn and that he has to return as quickly as possible.

Well over 2000 years later, what Nambaaduvan said that day is relevant even today, more so especially in this money minded world:

“ I will even give up my life but I will never go back on my word. I gave him a promise and I have to fulfill it. Hence, I will have to go back to the Raakshasha and if he has to take me as his prey, so be it.”

Stunned by his response, the Brahmin allows Nambaaduvan to continue on his journey. On seeing Nambaaduvan, the Rakshasha wondered as to how this man came back, despite being under the threat of being consumed. Even more to his surprise, Nambaaduvan came close to the Raakshasha and offered himself as his prey.

Raakshasha changes his mind
By now, the Raakshasha had changed his mind. He did not want Nambaaduvan’s body anymore. Instead, he now asked for the fruits of all the praise that Nambaaduvan had secured through his visits to Lord Nambi every night. Nambaaduvan refused this at first saying he would give his body away as promised.

The Raakshasha explains the reason for his Raakshasha status. He was a Brahmin in his previous birth. Due to his arrogance of considering himself as the all knowing, he committed many sins including not completing a Yaagam. Hence, he had to take the ugly form in this birth.

Nambaaduvan recites Kaisika Puraanam,secures Vaikunta Moksham for the Rakshasha
The Raakshasha requested Nambaaduvan that he share with him at least that day’s praise so he could get Moksham and go to Vaikuntam. Finally, Nambaaduvan agreed and shared with him the ‘Kaisika’ songs, which he had sung that very night in front of Lord Nambi of ThiruKurungkudi, thus securing Vaikunta Moksham for the Raakshasha.

It is believed that any one who recites/reads or listens to the Kaisika Puraanam will get Vaikunta Moksham in this birth.

Kaisika Ekadesi in Srirangam- Wednesday night 21st November 2007

Wednesday evening (21st November 2007) was an action packed one at Srirangam Lord Ranganatha Swamy temple.

830pm- NamPerumal to the Arjuna Mandapam
After having come out once in the morning on a procession, Lord NamPerumal took his 2nd procession of the day starting from the Sanctum at sharp 830pm.Coming around the Sannidhi, he reached the Arjuna Mandapam via the Kili Mandapam by 9pm.

930pm-1130pm - Araiyar Sevai – 2 hour Non Stop performance by 5 Araiyars

Five Araiyars- Lakshmi Narayanan, Sampath, Ranganathan, Krishnan and teenager Madhavan of Srirangam enacted the story of the Kaisika Puraanam for 2 hours beginning 930pm. While one Araiyar would narrate the song, another would explain the meaning and one other Araiyar would enact the story through the Abhinayam, a unique art/dance performance with their hands and legs. It was a performance that kept the 1000 odd people who were present at the Arjuna Mandapam, inside the Ranganatha temple.

Araiyar Sevai is a visual song and dance enactment of the ‘Paasurams’ that has been performed at the Vaishnava Divya Desams for over 1000 years. Araiyars (King of Music) are descendents of Nathamunigal, who is believed to have introduced the Araiyar Sevai. It is believed that Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam himself gave the Araiyars the right to perform the unique musical chanting at the temples and presented them with the cone-like red cap, two cymbals and the sacred garland (which they wear around their neck when they perform).

Outstanding effort by the Araiyars
While it is sad that Araiyar Sevai is now performed only in 3 Divya Desams in Tamil Nadu( its become a thing of the past in all other Divya Desams), this outstanding performance of the Araiyars in Srirangam including by the young boy (Madhavan), and the audience support that we saw here during the entire length of the Araiyar Sevai gives one hope that it can continue for a few generations yet.

11.30pm –1.30am- The Reading of the Kaisika Puraanam

For 2 hours beginning 11.30pm on Wednesday night, the 62 year old Paraasara Azhagiya Singa Bhattar, a descendent of Paraasara Bhattar, read out well over a 100 verses from the Kaisika Puraanam with Paraasara Badri Bhattar holding out the Puraanam papers for the entire stretch of 2 hours. It was a non stop recital in a loud and clear rendering of the songs.

For a man who could barely walk, it was a truly memorable performance, to stand for two hours late into the night and reciting with great clarity the Kaisika Puraanam. He was sweating profusely but during these 2 hours (11.30pm-130am) he did not sip a single glass of water nor did he pause even for a moment. Such was his passion and commitment to the Kaisika Puraanam. So happy were the devotees at the end of the recital, that several hundreds of them fell on the Bhattar’s feet for his blessings.

It had been 4 hours of captivating narration and enactment of Kaisika Puraanam.

Lord NamPerumal given 365 new dresses

On the Kaisika Ekadesi day, Lord NamPerumal is given 365 dresses to make up for not giving him enough new dresses through out the year.

At the end of the Bhattar recital of Kaisika Puraanam and after another change of dress, theertham (sacred water) is served. By now, it was almost 2am.

5.15am -Thursday 22nd November 2007
After being allowed only a few hours rest after a long and tiring day/night, Lord NamPerumal is woken up quite early the next morning to be dressed up again. Starting sharp at 5.15am, NamPerumal is taken out on a procession back from the Arjuna Mandapam to his sanctum.

Karpoora Padi Etra Sevai- Showering Camphor Powder on the Lord
Just before his entry into the Santanu Mandapam, the Lord is showered with camphor powder that spreads a special fragrance around Lord NamPerumal. This is in recognition of the special happy event the previous night and for the Lord having stayed up late into the night.

King Vijaya Ranga Sokka Nathan is late

The Telugu ruler Vijaya Ranga Sokka Nathan was eager to see witness the Kaisika Ekadesi Celebrations and especially the ‘Karpoora Padi Etra Sevai’ (showering of camphor powder). Unfortunately, he came late and the Lord had already entered the Santanu Mandapam. Having come from a great distance, the king requested the Lord to provide a replay as he could not go back without seeing the Kaisika Ekadesi Celebrations. However, the Lord refused to accept this request stating that he is always on time and does not wait for anyone.

Lord NamPerumal asked the king to come on the same day next year. So upset was the king, who had come there all excited with his family, that he decided to stay put outside the NamPerumal Sannidhi for another year. In memory of this event, the idol of King Vijaya Ranga Sokka Nathan along with his family can be seen outside the Perumal Sannidhi on the Western side.

Role of Music and Dance in Temples
An interesting aspect that one noticed in the Kaisika Puraanam recital and the Araiyar Sevai is that it clearly brought out the fact that, in centuries gone by, music and dance had a special place in religious worship in Divya Desams.

God does not differentiate

Also, as could be seen from Lord Ranganatha’s comments on TirupaanAzhvaar ( and the Kaisika Puraanam episode at ThiruKurungkudi, the Lord did not differentiate between caste and class when it came to the purity of a devotee’s intent.

Contact Paraasara Badri Bhattar: 99943 81930

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oppiliappan Thiru Vinnagar

The only Divya Desam where Lord is served food without salt

Located  6kms East of Kumbakonam, Lord Oppili Appan in a handsome standing posture looks like Lord Venkataachalapathy of Tirupathi. A km from here is the Raaghu Sthalam at Thiru Nageswaram.

NammAzhvaar sees Oppiliappan as his father

என் அப்பன் எனக்கு  ஆய் இருள் ஆய்
என்னைப் பெற்றவன் ஆய்

பொன் அப்பன் மணி அப்பன் முத்து அப்பன்
என் அப்பனும் ஆய்

மின்னப் பொன் மதில் சூழ்
திருவிண்ணகர் சேர்ந்த அப்பன்

தன்  ஒப்பார் இல் அப்பன்
தந்தனன் தன தாள் நிழலே -Thiruvoimozhi 6-3-9

NammAzhvaar praised the Lord as “Oppaar Il Appan” – No one is equal to this Lord. NammAzhvaar saw the Lord of Thiru Vinnagar in 5 different forms - Ponn Appan, Mani Appan, Muthu Appan, Enn Appan and Vinnagar Appan as seen in the praise above.

The Story
Thiruthuzhaai Devi was upset that Lord Vishnu was closer to Goddess Lakshmi’s heart. Wanting to get a special treatment from the Lord, she undertook penance. A pleased Lord asked her to appear inThiru Vinnagar as Tulasi (the sacred plant). Lakshmi would then be born as Bhoomi Devi under the Tulasi tree.

Lord said that one would have to undertake penance to get the blessings of Lakshmi. However, those who seek blessings from me by showering the Tulasi garland will derive benefit equivalent to having performed the Ashwametha Yaagam. Also, those who grow the Tulasi plant in their homes will go to Vaikuntam. To this day, a Vaishnavite house is considered incomplete without the Tulasi plant. Further, Thiruthuzhaai Devi would always remain in his heart (as the Tulasi garland).

Lord Accepts food without Salt

Mirukanda Rishi’s son Markandeya wanted Goddess Lakshmi to be born as his daughter and the Lord as his son in law. He undertook penance at this place and found a young girl (Goddess Lakshmi) under the Tulasi tree. He brought her up as his daughter.

Years later, Lord Vishnu, disguised as an old Brahmin, came to his house and asked for the hand of his daughter. A shocked Markandeya, who had wanted to give his daughter to Lord Vishnu, tried to dissuade the old man with several different excuses. He pleaded that his daughter was far too young and that she did not know to manage a household. The old man was not convinced and would not move out of the house without Markandeya’s daughter.

Markandeya told the old man that his daughter did not know the art of cooking, so much so that she was not even aware of the right mix of salt. The old man promised to consume food even if it was without salt.

A hassled Markandeya prayed to Lord Vishnu for help and on opening his eyes found the Lord in his full form with conch and chakram.

The Name
As the Lord agreed to eat food without salt, he came to be called UppiliAppan (Lord without the salt). This is the only Divya Desam where food is served to the Lord without salt.

ThiruMangai Azhvaar in his praise says
வேறு கூறுவது உண்டு, அடியேன் விரித்து உரைக்கும் 
ஆரே நீ பணியாது ஆடை நின் திருமனது கூறேன் 
நெஞ்சு தன்னால் குணம் கொண்டு 
மற்று ஓர் தெய்வம் தேர்ந் உன்னை அல்லல் 
திரு வின்னகரானே - Periya Thiru Mozhi

Thirumangai Azhvaar, Poigai, PeyAzhvaar and NammAzhvaar have sung praise of the Lord in 47 paasurams

Street Procession
Lord is always accompanied by the Goddess on processions and he never goes out alone.

Visting OppiliAppan is equivalent to visting Tirupathi Srinivasa
Those who cannot go to Tirupathi can visit OppiliAppan in Thiru Vinnagar as a visit here is considered equivalent to visiting the Tirupathi Lord. In fact, Lord OppiliAppan considered the elder brother of Tirupathi Srinivasa.

One can combine OppiliAppan, Naachiyar Koil (Thiru Naraiyur), ThiruCherai(Saaranaathan) and Thiru Kannamangai(BhakthaVatsala Perumal) in one trip. This can be completed in ½ a day. One can begin with OppiliAppan and end with ThiruKannamangai. A car trip would cost about Rs. 250-300 from Kumbakonam and back.

Quick Facts

Moolavar       : Oppili Appan(Venkataachalapathy) East Facing Standing Posture
Azhvaars       : Thirumangai Azhvaar, Poigai Azhvaar,  PeyAzhvaar and NammAzhvaar
Temple time  : 6am-1pm and 4pm-9pm
Priest           :0435 2463385 

Bus: One can take the Kumbakonam-Karaikal bus and get down at ThiruNageswaram. There are local town buses to OppiliAppan Temple. Auto: Auto from Kumbakonam bus stand to OppiliAppan temple would cost Rs. 80/-(one way)

Place to Stay: Best to stay in Kumbakonam (VPR Lodge, Siva International, Hotel Green Park, Hotel Raya’s)

Auto to Oppiliappan and around : Selvam @ 8940251370

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Anbil Vadivazhagiya Nambi Divya Desam

Thiru Mazhisai Azhvaar refers to this Lord alongside Srirangam Ranganatha and Kudanthai Aaraavamuthan
Located about 15kms South East of Srirangam, one can reach Anbil via Toll Gate and Lalgudi from Trichy Chatiram bus stand(Bus Number 93 goes direct to Anbil). In centuries gone by, devotees used to walk across the Coloroon from Koviladi Divya Desam, a distance of 2 kms.

Chozha king built the Anbil temple
Sundara Raja Chozhan, the father of Raja Raja Chozhan had stayed here for a night before going for a battle. He laid his weapons before the Lord and sought his blessings. Emerging victorious, he is said to have come back here and built the temple in its current form.

Shiva’s curse
To find salvation from Brahmma’s curse, Shiva went on a pilgrimage begging for food, with Brahmma’s skull as the begging vessel. Every time someone filled the vessel with food, Shiva found to his horror that it vanished immediately. At Uthamar Koil, Goddess Lakshmi filled the vessel with food, thus ending Shiva’s hunger. However, to Shiva’s dismay, Brahmma’s skull still lay fixed on his hand.

Shiva is said to have visited this place from Uthamar Koil before going to Kandiyur where he finally got salvation.

The Name
Legend has it that Sage Durvasa once came to meet Mandaka Rishi but had to wait long as the latter was in deep meditation, under the river. Durvasa, who is known for his instant anger, cursed Mandaka Rishi turning him into a frog.

Wanting to get back his human form, Mandaka Rishi underwent penance at this place and his prayers were finally answered, with Vishnu appearing before the Rishi and liberating him from Durvasa’s curse. Hence, this place is called Mandaka(Frog) Puri.

Thirumazhisai Azhvaar’s comparison
While referring to Lord Vishnu in his reclining posture, Thirumazhisai Azhvaar talks about Anbil (Vadivazhagiya Nambi) along side Srirangam Ranganathar, Appaala Ranganathar (Koviladi), Thiru Kudanthai, Thiru Vallur, Thiruvekka and Thiru Paarkadal.
நாகநாதனை குடந்தை வெக்க திருஎவ்வுள் நாகநாதனை அரங்கம் பேர் அன்பில்

நாகநாதனை பாற்கடல் கிடக்கும்
ஆதி நெடுமால் அணைப்பாய் கருதானவான்


In the Tamil month of Maasi, Vadivazhagiya Nambi of Anbil goes to Srirangam and to the banks of Coloroon.
Garuda Sevai in Maasi Visaakam
10 day Vaikunta Ekadesi festival

Andal in Sitting Posture

Andal is seen in a sitting posture here. This is considered as a prarthana sthalam for unmarried women. It is believed that prayers to Andal at this temple will result in them finding the bridegroom

Quick Facts

Deity      : Sundara Raja Perumal in reclining posture facing East
Utsavar  : Vadivazhagiya Nambi
Goddess : Azhagiya Valli Thaayar(Seperate Thaayar Sannidhi)
Azhvaar : ThirumazhisaiAzhvaar –1 Paasuram
Time      : 7am-1230pm and 4pm-8pm
Contact  : S. Varadaraja Bhattar/Aravamudhan Bhattar @ 90034 69591
 Address : Mangamal Puram, Anbil, Trichy 621 702

How to reach Anbil
From Chathiram bus stand in Trichy, one can take a bus to Lalgudi and then another bus from Lalgudi to Anbil (about 8 kms). There is a direct bus (Route No. 93) every hour to Anbil from Chatiram bus stand.

One can also take a car and visit Uthamar Koil, Thiruvellarai and Anbil Divya Desams in one go and finish all three temples in half a day.(will cost about Rs. 400-500)

Where to Stay
Best to stay in Trichy or Srirangam

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Koviladi Appakudathaan Divya Desam

Pancha Rangam Kshetram 
Only Divya Desam where ‘Appam’ (Sweet rice cake) is offered to the Deity every day
Namazhvaar sang the last of his Paasurams on Thiruper Nagar before attaining Moksham
Located about 25kms East of Trichy on the Kallanai -Thiruvayaru road near Thirukattupalli, Koviladi AppaKudanthan temple in ThiruPer Nagar is situated right on the banks of Cauvery. This is a temple that dates to a period before the Srirangam Ranganatha temple. In centuries gone by, people used to visit Koviladi and walk 2 kms across the Coloroon to reach Anbil Divya Desam

It is said that Appaala Ranganatha led/measured the steps for Srirangam Ranganatha and hence the name ‘Kovil - Adi’ (Srirangam is called the ‘Kovil’ among the Divya Desams, Adi is ‘steps’)

The Story
A King incurred the wrath of Sage Durvaasa and lost all his powers as a result of the curse. To get liberated from the curse, he was asked to feed a lakh people. He undertook this and continued for a while. One day, Lord Narayana came here in a disguised form and asked for food. The Lord ate through the day leaving the King surprised.

Appam Eating Ranganatha

When asked what else he wanted to eat, the disguised Lord asked the king to feed him a pot (Kudam) of ‘Appam’ (a sweet rice cake delicacy). The moment Lord consumed the pot of ‘Aappam’, the king got liberated from his curse. Being the one who had a pot of this sweet delicacy, the Lord here is called ‘AppaKudathan’. The Lord can be seen holding a pot of Appam in his right hand. This is only Divya Desam where Aappam is offered daily to the Lord.

Pancha Rangam Kshetram
This is a Pancha ‘Rangam’ Kshetram - Aathi Rangam(Srirangapatnam), Madhya Rangam (Srirangam), Chathurthara Rangam (Kumbakonam), Pancha Rangam (Indhalur) and Appala Rangam (Appakudathaan- Koviladi)

Thirumangai Azhvaar could not forget Appala Rangan
Thirumangai Azhvaar was so enticed by this Lord that he says he could not forget Lord AppaKudathaan even when he went to Thiruvellarai (another Divya Desam on the other side of Coloroon).
துலக்கம் இல் சுடரை அவுணன் உடல் பிளக்கும் மைந்தனை
பேரில் வணங்கிபோய் அளப்பு இல் ஆர் அமுதை
அமரர்க்கு அருள் விளக்கினை சென்று
வெள்ளரயில்  காண்டுமே 

NammAzhvaar and Koviladi Rangan
Nammazhvaar sang the last of his Paasurams about Appaala Rangan before attaining Moksham.

ThiruMazhisai Azhvaar and his reference to 7 temples
Appakudathaan Ranganathar is one of the 7 temples referred by Thirumazhisai Azhavaar of Lord Vishnu in reclining Posture - others being Srirangam, Thiru Kudanthai (Kumbakonam), Anbil (Vadivazhagiya Nambi), Thiru Vallur, ThiruVekka and Thiru Paarkadal.

Temple Priest
The priest at this temple ranks as one of the best I have seen. He has a sweet and totally ‘devoted’ voice. Despite being located in a non centric place and with very limited facilities, his devotion to Appala Rangan can be seen in the way Srinivasa (Jawahar) Bhattar goes about the daily poojas.
(Since the time this story was first written, he has moved on from here and is currently in Mudikondan Kothandaramar Sannidhi - )

Quick Facts

Moolavar  : Appa Kudathan in reclining posture facing West
Utsavar    : Appaala Rangan
Goddess    : Indira Devi / Kamalavalli
Azhvaars   : 33 Paasurams - Thirumangai , Thirumazhisai, PeriAzhavaar and NammAzhvaar

Priest       : Ramanujam Bhattar @ 9952468956 / 9344855155 /Murali Bhattar@ 04362 281488
Time        : 630am-12.30pm and 4pm-8pm

How to reach Koviladi:
Take a bus to Kallanai from Chathiram Bus Stand in Trichy. This route takes one along a narrow route right next to the Cauvery. From Kallanai, Koviladi is about 5 kms further East on the way to Thiruvaiyaru, just before Thiru Kaatuppalli. One could take Trichy - Kumbakonam bus going via Thiruvaiyaru, though this service is not that frequent. No courier service to this place.

Where to stay
Best to stay in Trichy and take a bus or a taxi to this temple. No staying facilities available here

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cricket Tales- Sri Lanka's Inaugural Test versus India-1982

Inaugural Test Sri Lanka against India
25 years after his country's entry into Test Cricket, a Lankan stands on the verge of creating history for Sri Lankan cricket

On the eve of what could be a momentous test (Australia v Sri Lanka in Hobart begins Friday 16th Nov) for the Lankans (Muralidharan could become the highest wicket taker in tests in the coming days), we take a look at the first ever test Sri Lanka played in India.

Its been 25 years since SL played its first ever test against India. Through the 1970s, Ceylon/Sri Lanka played Tamil Nadu for the Gopalan Trophy in a ‘ feature match’ on the annual cricket calendar. We had seen several exciting players in the 1970s, many Carribean style. However, all of them had to be content with ‘unofficial tests’. Anura Tennakone, Neil Shanmugham, Michael Tissera, Kaluperuma were a few who could have been hugely successful at the Test Level.

India of course had not had such a good experience, having lost the World Cup match to SriLanka in 1979.

I used to admire Sri Lankan cricket even from its pre ‘official’ test days. Such was their passion that Radio Ceylon used to broadcast commentary even on local matches – college matches, district matches. Almost every local match used to be broadcast on the radio so much I had learnt a bit of Sinhalese in the late 70s, early 80s (Tamil was also part of the commentary).

As early as 1980, Rupavaahini, the state owned Television of Sri Lanka, used to telecast highlights of WSC one dayers played in Australia (they were not even a test side then and SriLanka had no connection to those matches).

In those early days, Sri Lanka seemed to be the West Indies of Asia cricket, in terms of style of play.

Test Status
Sri Lanka got the test status in 1982. And their coming to Madras (almost a 2nd home for them) to play their first ever test against India was a big moment not just for Sri Lankan cricket, but for the people of TN as well.

SL’s inaugural test was against a strong England team at home in early 1982. After having competed well in the first innings and after a strong 2nd innings start, they collapsed dramatically after, at one stage, being in with a chance to secure a draw or may be even pull off a surprise win (10 years later, against Australia, they were once again in a similar kind of position only to collapse dramatically to lose the test at home).

SL then went to Pakistan for a 3 test series and lost to a strong team comprising of Imran, Javed and Zaheer. It was a tough early initiation for SL into test cricket.

Later that year, in September 1982, Sri Lanka made a trip to Madras for a one off test match, one that was broadcast on Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation in 3 languages English, Sinhalese and Tamil.

Sri Lankans impressed straightaway. Three things came to the fore in that test:

They were dashers
They were a good fielding team
They seemed like fighters (something that has been representative of them over the last 2 decades)

Two of the Best Knocks at Chepauk- Roy Dias

What the Madras crowd saw that morning on day 1 was something that still remains etched in one’s memory and we were to witness another gem from Dias within the next 3 days. Those two knocks of Roy Dias would rank as one of the best knocks seen at Chepauk after GR Vishwanath’s 97.

Coming in at No. 3, Roy Dias, possibly Sri Lanka’s most stylish stroke player of the last 25 years, took the attack to the Indian bowlers in his knock of 60 (Dias also starred in the one day series displaying his full array of strokes. It was a one day series which was one of Srikkanth’s best as well alongside the 1985 WCC)

Short and stocky, Duleep Mendis took over from where Dias left and played a knock that left many stunned (Mendis had already been a thorn in the flesh for the Indians having been the architect of the Lankan victory in the world cup in 1979). He made a century in each innings including reaching his century with a six.

Fighting Spirit of the Lankans
Sri Lanka’s fighting spirit was seen in the 2nd innings. After being behind by over 200 runs on first innings, Sri Lankan batsmen fought till the end. Roy Dias’ classy 97 pushed India back (though very few today talk about Dias’ innings- any talk of Great Chennai knocks has reference only to GRV’s 97!!!!), Mendis’s 2nd century of the test match brought him into limelight on the international (test) scene.

One man who played in that first test could have gone on to become a key figure in the Sri Lankan line up that decade. He showed glimpses of his talent with a swashbuckling 70+ in the 2nd innings that pulled Sri Lanka from a precarious position and actually saved them from defeat.

India chase the win
India, for a change (they have not done that too many times in test cricket), chose to go for the win on the final evening. Kapil and Sandeep Patil, fresh from his onslaught on Bob Willis just 3 months before, (Patil had struck Willis for 6 fours in an over) kept India in the chase for a while, but Kapil’s exit triggered a collapse and in the final few minutes that evening India had to fight to make sure they didn’t go down to an embarrassing defeat with Gavaskar being surrounded by fielders around him in the final minutes of the game.

It was quite a rare sight and for a team playing its first ever test against India, it was a psychological victory that they had first held on and then even threw open the possibility of an unlikely win.

3 years later, after this first test against India, and in a most controversial series, Sri Lanka were to register their first series win at home.

Impact those cricketers made in Sri Lankan Cricket
Several cricketers who played in this test went on to make a big impact in Sri Lanka cricket in the first 2 decades of its entry into international(test) cricket.

Mendis went on to play many a good knock for Sri Lanka through the 1980s and later became a cricket administrator. Arjuna Ranatunga, one of the youngest to play test cricket for Sri Lanka, would go on to become Sri Lanka’s first world cup winning captain. Ranjan Madugalle had a compact technique and a lot was expected from him. But he failed to live up to his potential on the playing field but made up for it off the field with his current status as the best match referee in world cricket.

Anura Ranasinghe was a dasher and an early version of Jayasuriya. He, along with Arjuna Ranatunga, were seen as the players for the future. However, while Ranatunga went on to become one of the all time greats of Sri Lankan cricket, Ranasinghe, along with his captain Bandula Warnapura, joined the rebel tour and that was the last one heard of him.

The Leggie- DS De Silva bowling to Gavaskar
One of my favourites in that team was the leggie all rounder Somachandra De Silva. During the early years of Sri Lankan cricket, he played many a vital knock in the middle / late middle order and bowled long spells not giving away too many runs. During those formative years, he was a vital cog in the Sri Lankan armory.

While he did score a few runs and took a few wickets in this test match, my unforgettable memory of DS D’Silva from this test match was his bowling to Gavaskar on the final evening with 7 men round the bat. It was a dream situation for him, to be bowling to one of the all time great batsman with all the fielders around him.

Tamil Nadu had seen quite a bit of a tear away fast bowler who has recently been in a lot of controversy. Asantha De Mel was the bright young quickie who led the pace attack. He did take a lot of wickets for Sri Lanka in the early 1980s but was always expensive.

My other favourite of those early years of Sri Lankan cricket missed this test match but Sidath Wettimuny(his brother Mithra too played for Lanka) would be the rock solid opener of Sri Lankan cricket after their entry into Test cricket.

(India had a few players in this test who were hoping to stay on the international scene for longer but that did not materialise. Arun Lal, a prolific scorer in domestic circuit made his debut here, but really did not get enough chances to stabilise himself in the team. Rakesh Shukla, a late middle order bat and a leggie, was picked on the back of having secured Delhi an unlikely win in the ranji trophy final but he too did not play much after this test. The one who really failed to live up to his full potential was Sandeep Patil, who seemed to be a dashing batsman ready to take on the best of fast bowlers in the world. He too failed to make it big on the International scene despite playing a couple of memorable and unforgettable innings)
The first 6 months of test cricket that year was quite an initiation for Sri Lanka into the big league. They had played against Botham, Willis, Gower and Underwood at home, Zaheer, Javed and Imran in Pak and against Gavaskar and Kapil in another away series.

In each of these tests, they showed to the world that they brought excitement to the cricket field and were never a boring side to watch (People in TN already had seen in the Gopalan Trophy matches and even earlier, the unofficial tests were ample evidence of this).

25 years ago, not many would have given Sri Lanka a chance of producing a cricketer who would be on top of the wickets chart. But here they are on the verge of creating history. The ‘gentleman cricketer’ Muralidharan may claim the glory of the highest wicket taker in the next few days. That really is a significant achievement for this small island, dogged for a large part of this period with a war.