Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Parameswara Vinnagaram

Vaikunta Perumal
Beautiful sand stone sculptures around the prakaram leaves one amazed at the artistic capabilities of the Pallavas
Located one km East of the Kanchipuram East Railway Station, this Divya Desam has been designated as a heritage temple and is under the archaeological survey of India.
(In 2018, funds have been allocated to install LED bulbs around the temple)

The story goes that a Gandharva beauty tried to distract Baradwaja Rishi in his penance. A child was born to them and a perturbed Rishi prayed to Brahmma regarding the child’s up bringing. Vishnu and Brahmma came to his rescue and promised to take care of the child. During the same period, a Pallava king, who was childless, was undertaking penance. They presented this child to the Pallava King and named him Parameswaran.

Another story goes that Lord’s security guards, Dwara Paalakaas, are said to have born to a Vidarbha king, who was childless. Later the two are said to have performed the Ashwamedha Yaagam, upon which Lord Vishnu is believed to have appeared before them.

Lord and his 3 postures
Lord is said to have appeared before the devoted Parameswara Varma in his three postures. Lord Vishnu is believed to have stood up and taught Parameswara 18 different arts of life. In his grand sitting posture, he is said to have passed on advice to Parameswara, as an acharya would to his disciple. And is then believed to have got into a sleeping posture so as to be served by Parameswara.

To mark these event, Parameswara Pallava is said to have built this 3 tier structure. The 2nd tier  is open only on Ekadesi days.The steps to the 3rd Tier are damaged and hence cannot be visited anymore.
So attached was the Pallava king to this temple, that he used to invoke the blessing of this Lord before he embarked on any battle, especially before he went to face their arch rivals, The Pandyas. This has been brought out beautifully by Thirumangai Azhvaar in several of his Paasurams in praise of the Lord here.

கார்மன்னு நீள் விசும்பும் 
கடலும் சுடரும் நிலனும் மழையும் 
தன உந்தி தார் மண்ணு அழகு ஆய் கச்சி 

தாமரைகண்ணன் இடம் தடம் 
மா மதில் சூழ்ந்து  
தேர்மன்னு தன்னவனை முனையில் செருவில்
திரள் வாட்டிய திண்சிலை யோன் பார் மண்ணு 
பல்லவர்கோன் பணிந்தவரும் 
பரமேஸ்வர வின்னகரமதுவே ” –Thirumangai Azhvaar 

Krishnadeva Raya, who contributed to the development of several Divya Desams, also helped in the renovation of this temple.

Artistic Pallava style Sculptures
The temple has beautiful old sculptures around the prakaram depicting the different stages of Parameswara’s life right from his childhood. The temple is a terrific example of Pallava Architecture and is believed to have been built by them on a single piece of rock.
Secret Underground Tunnel
Legend has it that there was a secret underground tunnel laid out from this temple all the way to Mahabalipuram , on the eastern sea shore, as well as to Parameswara Pallava’s court. When Britishers got a scent of this, they came here to trace this. Coming together as one, the devotees of this temple are said to have built out steps across the tunnel to the temple sannidhi, thus turning away the Britishers.

Every Ekadasi, devotees can have darshan of Ranganatha in the Tier 1 of the temple between 8am and 12noon.

Devarajan Bhattar, whose father had performed service for three decades at a salary of Rs. 35 per month, is helping revive the Utsavams at the temple.
He too joined the temple just under a couple of decades ago at a three digit salary and has served the Lord selflessly ever since. He is hoping to organise a 3 day Pavitrotsavam  in Karthigai this year.

Brahmotsavam takes place in Vaikasi with Theerthavari on Punar Poosam day.
Garuda Sevai takes place in the morning on the 3rd day

On the Bhogi day, Lord goes out on a procession with Andal.

About 3 lakh people visit this temple on the Vaikunta Ekadesi day
Quick Facts
Moolavar   : Paramapatha Nathan sitting posture West facing
                    Lord Ranganatha can be seen in Tier 2
                    Paramapathanathan is said to reside in Tier 3

Thaayar     : Vaikunta Valli
Azhvaar     : Thirumangai Azhvaar- 10 Paasurams (Periya Thirumozhi)

The temple is open between 7am-12noon and 4pm-8pm. Contact:Devarajan Bhattar @  99444 64383

Monday, October 29, 2007

ThiruThanka Vilakoli Perumal

Birth Place of Vedantha Desigar

Thoopal is the birth place of Vedantha Desigar, the acharya who created the Vedantha Siddhaantha for Vaishnavites. Desigar’s life story has been depicted at this temple in form of beautiful photographs.

Thiru Thanka Vilakoli Perumal temple is about ½ km West of Thiru Vekka Divya Desam.

Saraswathi’s attempts to disrupt Brahmma’s Yaagam continue
Having failed in her previous attempts to stop Brahmma’s Ashwamedha Yaagam, Saraswathi decide to take an extreme step. She used her powers and put the entire place into darkness. Lord Vishnu appeared as a flame, thus providing the much needed light to Brahmma’s Yaagam.

Another Asura to destroy the Yaagam
Brahmma invited the Devas to attend the Yaagam. Not to be left behind, the Asuras too decided to attend. However, Brahmma ignored them. Angered at Brahmma not taking notice of their presence, the Asuras went to Saraswathi and poisoned her thoughts once again. They decided to create a dangerous Asura to destroy the Yaagam. The Asura, Maaya Nalan, went to the Yaagam in the form of a dangerous fire.

Once again coming to Brahmma’s rescue, Lord Vishnu took the fire in his hand and held it so served as a lighting lamp. He appeared in this form before Saraswathi, who had followed the Asura. Saraswathi accepted her mistake in trying to repeatedly block the Yaagam and came back to Brahmma. It is believed that Saraswathi herself appeared here as the ‘sacred water’, and a cold one at that, so as to cool the hot burning hand of Lord Vishnu, who had taken the fire in his hand to protect Brahmma.

Azhvaar’s high praise of this Lord

So impressed was Thirumangai Azhvaar with this ‘Lord with the fire’ that he compares the Lord here to ThiruKurundi Nambi, Kumbakonam Aaravamudhan, Srirangam Ranganatha and Tirupathi Srinivasa.

குருங்குடியில்  நின்றானே , மூவுலகிற்கும்  முதலாவனை
அளவிடா  வியலா  ஆராவமுதனை, 

அரங்கத்து  அரவணையில்  பள்ளி  கொண்ட  ஐயனை
வேக்கவில்  துயில்  அமர்ந்தானை  வேங்கடத்து  நின்றானை
இந்த  திருதன்காவில்  கண்டேன்

Quick Fact
Moolavar : Deepa Prakaasar  West Facing Standing Posture
Thaayar   : Maragada Valli
Utsavar   : Vilakoli Perumal
Contact: 94475 73942

108Divya Desam- Kanchipuram PavalaVannan

The Only Divya Desam where Lord Vishnu is praised for his colour

ThirumangaiAzhvaar was completely startled looking at the colour of the Lord here. He had seen and praised different forms of the Lord but none had left him as bemused as this one. He had never seen such a colour.

Not able to fathom as to who this one looked like, he wondered if this was similar to the one at Kadanmallai (Mahabalipuram) or the one at ThiruperNagar. And quickly realized that one was different and dissimilar. In different Yugams, Lord has been seen in different forms and colour. Thirumangai could not relate to this one.

PavalaVannan Perumal Divya Desam is situated near the Kanchipuram New Railway station off Madras Road.

The Story

Continuing her effort to stop Brahmma’s Yaagam, Saraswathi sent Asuras. With Brahmma once again looking up to Lord Vishnu for help, Vishnu took on the Asuras and killed them all. In the process of slaying them, blood sprained all over his body. This mix of blood on his body had given the Lord a different colour - ‘Pavalam’. And he remained so ever after.

Opposite this temple, ½ a km away and facing PavalaVannan is Pachai Vannan temple (not praised by Azhvaar).


On the 5th day of Vaikasi, Kanchi Varadarajan comes here on a procession from Chinna Kanchipuram.

Quick Facts

Deity : PavalaVanna Perumal
Posture : Standing West facing
Goddess : Pavalavalli Thaayar

Azhvaar : Thirumangai – 1 Paasuram(2060)

Timing : 730am-1130am, 5pm-8pm

Tel : Rangaraja Bhattar @ 92453 71910 / 99521 84249

Address : 12B Kalandar Street, Kanchipuram 631 602

Festivals: Navarathri, Deepavali, Vaikasi

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Kanchipuram Ashtabhujam

The only divya desam where Lord Vishnu is seen with 8 hands
Lord with 8 hands evokes Thirumangai Azhvaar's curiosity
Located 2 kms South West of Varadaraja Perumal temple and ½ km South of ThiruVekka is the Ashtabhujam Gajendra Varadan temple in Kanchipuram. 

The story of this temple too revolves around Saraswathi’s attempt to stop Brahmma’s Ashwamedha Yaagam. Continuing her quest to stop Brahmma’s Ashwamedha Yaagam, Saraswathi sends a dangerous looking Kaali along with an asura. Lord Vishnu appeared with 8 hands with a weapon in each hand to kill the asura and to subdue Kaali. In memory of this event, there is a Kaali temple next to this Divya Desam.

Thirumangai Azhvaar had praised Lord Vishnu in different forms and sizes but he had not seen one with 8 hands. Looking at this Lord, he could not understand who the one with 8 hands was and how one could be in this form.He tires to recount all the different forms of Lords Vishnu that he had praised but could not relate to this one. Hence, in each of his Paasurams directed at the Lord here, he, with a lot of curiosity, constantly asks the question 'who are you- the one with 8 hands.'

மேவி  அப்பாலும் விண்ணோர் வணங்க 
வேதம் உரைப்பார்  முனீர் மதந்தை தேவி 
அப்பால் அதிர் சங்கம் இப்பால் 
சக்ரம் மற்று இவர் வண்ணம் என்னில் 

காவி ஒப்பார் கடலேயும் ஒப்பார் 
கண்ணும் வடிவும் நெடியார் ஆய் 
என் ஆவி ஒப்பார் இவர் யார்கொல் என்ன 
அஷ்ட  புயகரம் என்றாரே ”- Thirumangai Azhvaar 

Gajendra Moksham
An elephant which came to the temple tank to pick up flowers for the Lord was caught in the clutches of a crocodile. Lord Vishnu is said to have hurled his disc at the crocodile to save the elephant. Lord here is said to have provided a ‘replayed version’ of Gajendra Moksham to PeyAzhvaar.

This is the only Divya Desam in Kanchipuram that has a Swarga Vaasal ( Gateway to Heaven).

10 day Brahmotsavam in Chitrai
Gajendra Moksham in Aadi
Pavitrotsavam in Avani
Margazhi Festival

Quick Facts

Moolavar: Gajendra Varadan  Standing West facing Posture
Thayar     : Alarmel Mangai
Utsavar   : Aathi Kesavan
Azhvaar : Thirumangai, PeyAzhvaar- 12 Paasurams
Timing  : 730am-12noon, 430pm-8pm
Contact :  Murali Bhattar @ 98656 98666/82205 63977 or Kamala Kannan Bhattar @ 96290 48396

Friday, October 26, 2007

Kanchipuram Thiru Vekka

Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal
The Only Divya Desam that features Lord Vishnu in a ‘Maaru Sayanam’
Lord Vishnu is seen sleeping in the opposite direction from Right to Left

Located in Chinna Kanchipuram 2 kms west of Varadaraja Perumal Koil, Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal gets one thinking. As one enters the Sannidhi, one feels that there is something wrong, something different, that one is not normally used to seeing in Vishnu temples.

It takes a little time for one to realize that Lord Vishnu, here at Thiru Vekka, is seen in a different sleeping posture from right to left (Maaru Sayanam) with his head resting on the left hand. In all other Divya Desams, where the Lord is represented in a sleeping posture, he can be seen sleeping from left to right with his head resting on his right hand.

புருபிடையே நின்றும் புனல் குளித்தும் 
ஐந்து நேரிபிடையே நிற்கவும் நீர் வேண்ட விருப்பு 
உடைய வெக்காவே செர்தானை 
 தூயக் தொழுதால் 
அக்காவே தீவினைகள் ஐந்து - பேயாழ்வார்

Such is the fame of the Lord here that PeyAzhvaar in this Paasuram says 'One need not stand atop mountains to penance. Neither does one need to be stick our neck into ice cold deep water nor in the midst of five fires to penance. It is just enough if we worship Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal at ThiruVekka with flowers and a sincere heart. And we will liberated from all our sins.'

The story
5 temples in Chinna Kanchipuram have stories relating to Brahmma’s Ashwamedha Yagna and Saraswathi’s anger at being ignored for the Yagna. To prove a point to Brahmma that a yagna cannot be successful without her presence, Saraswathi tries many different ways to stop the yagna.

In the story relating to ThiruVekka, she takes the form of a fast flowing river (VEGAVATHI) and tries to flood the place. Brahmma looks up to Lord Vishnu to help him with the smooth and safe conduct of the Yagna.

Vishnu, this time, sleeps across the river as a dam, thus stopping the flow of the river. With the river being blocked, Lord Vishnu, along with MahaLakshmi provides darshan to Brahmma, who then continues his Yagna.

ThirumazhisaiAzhvaar and the Lord Leaving this Place
Once ThirumazhisaiAzhvaar’s disciple Kani Kannan was heard singing praise of the Lord. Pleased with his voice, the king ordered that Kani Kannan sing praise of him too. KaniKannan refused stating that he would sing praise only of the Lord and not of others.An upset king banished him from the kingdom. Kanni Kannan narrated the happening to his preceptor Thirumazhisai Azhvaar who decided to accompany him out of the kingdom.

Thirumazhisai Azhvaar went up to the Lord and requested him too to join them on their journey.

கனி கண்ணன்  போகின்றான் காமருப்பூண்
 கச்சி மணி வண்ணா நீ கிடக்க வேண்டாம்
துணிவுடைய சென்னா புலவனும் போகின்றேன்
நீயும் உன்ருன் பை நாகப்பாய் சுருட்டிகொள் - திருமழிசை ஆழ்வார்

And the three left the place- This action plunged the entire kingdom into darkness.

Realizing his mistake, the king reached out to Thirumazhisai Azhvaar and requested that the three of them come back to the kingdom. Thirumazhisai Azhvaar asked the Lord to return to his residing place. The Lord is said to have followed this instruction immediately and in this hurried return is said to have slept in the opposite direction.

In memory of the event marking Thirumazhisai Azhvaar leaving the place, the Lord along with the idol of Thirumazhisai Azhvaar is taken in a procession to the nearby river VegaVathi, every year during the Tamil Calendar month of ‘Thai’(Jan-Feb),

Other Reasons for Maaru Sayanam
Two other reasons are also stated for Lord’s opposite sleeping posture. Since he left his residing place and later returned, he is said to have slept in the opposite direction as proof that he had left the place once.

Legend also has it that, as Lord Vishnu came in a tearing hurry, on Brahmma’s request, to block River VegaVathi ( Saraswathi), he is said to have slept in the opposite direction.

Name of the Lord
As the Lord listened, in strict obedience, to the instructions of Thirumazhisai Azhvaar and did as the Azhvaar wanted, he is called ‘Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal’.

5 Azhvaars have sung praise of the Lord- Poigai, PeyAzhvaar, NammAzhvaar, Thirumangai Azhvaar and Thirumazhisai Azhvaar. This is also the birth place of Poigai Azhvaar.

In early days of Vaishnavism, this temple was referred to as the Lord representing ‘Sleeping Posture’ as can be seen from the songs of the Azhvaars.

இசைந்த வரவமும் வேர்புங்கடலும் 
பசைதனமுது படப்ப 
அசைந்து கடைந்த வருத்தமோ 
 வேக்காவில் கிடந்திருந்து நின்றது மங்கு - பேயாழ்வார் 

Quick Facts
Moolavar  : YaaThotha Gaari Perumal  in a west facing maaru sayana posture
Goddess   : Komalavalli Thaayar
Utsavar     :  Sonna Vannam Seitha Perumal
Birth place : Poigai Azhvaar
Timing       : 8am-11am, 5pm-8pm
Contact     : S. Ramanuja Acharya Bhattar @ 044 3720 9752

Address     : Old 28, Aanai Katti Street, Chinna Kanchipuram 631 503

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thiru Paadagam Pandava Dhootha Perumal

Pandava Dhootha Perumal- A majestic 25 feet Lord Krishna

Located one km West of Kanchipuram Bus Stand is the Pandava Dhootha Perumal temple, one that was renovated by the Kulothunga Chola I.

The entrance to the temple through the very old looking temple tower is rather sedate. This leads one to a very small sized sanctum However, this modest entry sets one up for quite an unexpected surprise - A gigantic over 25 feet tall Lord Krishna in a majestic sitting posture (facing East), almost suggestive of the Lord’s Vishvaroopam.

The Story
In order to make peace with the Kauravas, Krishna goes to Hastinapura to the court of Duryodhana on behalf of the Pandavas. With a plot to kill Krishna and thus to put all hopes of a peace treaty, Duryodhana digs a pit and tops it with bamboo sticks. On this bamboo topped pit, he puts up a grand stage, thus setting up Krishna for a mega fall.

Once he enters the hall, the all knowing Krishna presses the stage with his little toe to send it crushing below. And immediately after, Krishna displays his Vishwaroopam to the blind Dhirdharashtra (and only to him), by giving him the vision.

Seeing the Lord in his full divine form, a delighted Dhirdharashtra requests Krishna to make him blind again, for he does not want to see anything else after having seen the Lord himself. Says Dhirdharashtra to Krishna, “I have seen you in your full form. This is enough. No more do I want the vision.”

Years after this episode, Arjuna’s Grandson Janmejaya, who listened to the Mahabharata story from Vaisampaayana wanted to relive the moment (that of Lord Krishna displaying his Vishwaroopam) and undertook penance at this place. Krishna is believed to have provided Darshan to Janmejaya, as ‘Pandava Dhootha’, in the same way he had in the Mahabharatha episode.

Name of the Lord
Having played the role of a messenger for the Pandavas, Krishna, here at this temple, is known by that same name- Pandava Dhootha Perumal.

Four Azhvaars  have praised the Lord here. Thirumazhisai Azhvaar refers to 3 temples in Kanchipuram as representative of the 3 postures of Lord Vishnu. Among the Divya Desams, this temple (Thiru Paadagam) was just referred to as ‘Lord in Sitting Posture’ in those days, while Thiru Ooragam was referred to the Lord in standing posture and Thiru Vekka as the Lord in Sleeping Posture. It was only later that other Azhvaars referred to Lord Vishnu and his 3 postures.

நின்றதேந்தை ஊரகத்து, இருந்ததேந்தை  பாடகத்து 

அன்று  வேக்கனை  கிடந்தது  எண்ணிலாத  முன்னெல்லாம் 
அன்று  நான்  பிறந்திலேன்  பிறந்தபின்  மறந்திலேன் 
நின்றதும்  இருந்ததும்  கிடந்ததும்  என்  நெஞ்சுள்ளே ”- Thirumazhisai Azhvaar

Just in the way Krishna protected the Pandavas, it is believed that the Lord here will protect devotees who pray with sincerity and unflinching devotion.

There is said to have been a 18 day debate between Ramanuja and a Saivite Scholar. Having lost the debate to Ramanuja, the Saivite Scholar is said to have become his discipline and changed his name to Arulaala Perumal Emberumaanar. His descendents are the ones currently managing the temple.

Krishna Jayanthi
Vaikunta Ekadesi
Panguni Uthiram 

Quick Facts
Moolavar       : Pandava Dhootha Perumal
Goddess         : Rukmini
Azhvaars       : 4 Azhvaars have praised this Lord - Thirumazhisai, Thirumangai, Bhoothath and                                  PeyAzhvaar
Time              : 7am-11am and 4pm-730pm
Contact          : TV Srinivasan Bhattar @ 94438 84698
Address         : 28B/75 Pandava Perumal Koil Street, Kanchipuram 631502

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dalmia Puram .....Kallakudi Palaganatham

A full circle in 50 years

Almost half a century ago, our current Chief Minister had organised a rail roko near DalmiaPuram(Dalmia Puram is a small town between Ariyalur and Lalgudi on the Madras-Trichy rail route)

Reason- North Based Dalmia Cements were setting up a cement plant near Ariyalur and the protest was to prevent the entry of North based/Non TN based companies setting up a factory here...Congress was in Power at the center and Shri Karunanidhi was trying to make an entry into TN Politics then.

Shri Karunanidhi was put up in Palayamkottai Prison and he had said then
that he was happy to be in the Prison for the sake of TN (Palayamkottai Prison is well known for housing 'patriotic heroes')

The small town was almost non existent prior to the setting up of the plant and this factory was to provide employment to several people in the region.

Despite the protest, the plant was set up and the town/station came to be called Dalmia Puram.

Several decades later, Shri Karunanidhi did manage to change the name of the station/town to its current name 'Kallakudi Palaganatham' from Dalmia Puram, thus trying to take away the credit of the Dalmia Investment!!!

I had written about this briefly a year or so ago.


While in Srirangam today, a page 3 photograph in The Hindu reminded me of that story. It was a big size photograph of Dalmia Cements Director inaugurating a state owned new bus service between Kallakudi( Palaganatham) and Trichy( Chattiram bus stand)

I wondered what a turn around it has been in 50 years.

Half a century earlier, there were protests and rail roko to prevent setting up of the Plant. Decades later, the name of the town/station had been changed...The name Dalmia Puram had ceased to exist.And now into the 21st Century, the Dalmia Chief inaugurates a state run bus service.

All the protest towards North based companies entering TN seemed a 'protest' of the past. The current issues had 'changed'.

Friday, October 12, 2007

S. Vasudevan- TN Ranji winning captain

Tamil Nadu’s Ranji Winning Captain of 1987-88- the unassuming S. Vasudevan

Exit VV Kumar, Enter S. Vasudevan.
The late 1970s saw the end of a long and illustrious career and the beginning of another - VV Kumar was shown the door in a rather unceremonious fashion ( as discussed in a story earlier in this section) to bring in a young left arm spinner who would go on to serve the state for the best part of the next decade with a great deal of success.

Just like VV, this one too had his moments of ‘faulty selection’ that put an end to hopes of a call higher up. But throughout his career, he remained an unassuming and silent cricketer going about his work in a quiet manner taking well over 200 wickets in Ranji Trophy and scoring over 1500 runs.

This section looks back at Tamil Nadu’s last Ranji Trophy winning captain S. Vasudevan(first one was Balu Alagannan in the mid 1950s) and more specifically on the ‘Golden Season’ for TN cricket.

Vasu (as he is called in the cricketing circles) started playing cricket at the age of 8, went through the ranks of solid performances at the school and college levels before making it to the Ranji team at the age of 21.

He did his schooling at Raja Muthiah high school (his classmate there now heads IBM India). While in school, he figured in the state team that won the Ghulam Ahmed Trophy. Vasu was instrumental in helping TN secure an outright win against the then very strong Mysore (state) schools, scoring 75 Not out and getting 9 wickets in the match (5 & 4).

Chit Chat at Mylapore Park and Shanti Vihar

He did his PU (Pre-University) at Vivekananda College (a senior of Vasu at PU now heads a leading financial services firm in Chennai). During the PU days, Vasu remembers long hours of cricket discussions with fellow cricketers at Nageswara Rao Park in Mylapore(now well known for the Sunday Kutcheri in Chennai) and Shanti Vihar (once a favourite meeting place for Vidya Mandir and Viveka students…Now the complex has been demolished).

He moved on to Pachaiyappas College to do B.Com playing there alongside Bharat Reddy and Bharat Kumar, among others. He figured in the University team that won the Rohinton Baria Tourney (very reputed tournament in those days- University cricket has lost its charm in recent years).

Hard Work at the Nets

It was not all easy for Vasu in those early days. In the late 1960s/early 70s, Vasu used to wait for hours before he got a chance to even bowl at the nets (reason…VV Kumar and Venkat would toil relentlessly at the nets for well over two hours). At the fag end of the net session, typically at 530 in the evening, Vasu would manage to get his hands on the ball. And he would bowl there till dark under the watchful eyes of VV and Venkat.

Vasu says, “Just watching VV and Venkat bowl taught me a lot of things in those early years. I learnt a lot about spin bowling watching them at the nets.”

It was something that Vasu never stopped till the end of his career. On most occasions, he would be the last one to bat at the nets ( Vasu was a very good bat as well and has played many a good knock for TN coming lower down the order) after spinning his arm over for 2 hours and more.

“ Bowling at the nets day in day out gives a bowler the rhythm” says Vasu.

This hard work and years of non stop effort earned him a Ranji call against Karnataka at the age of 21 in the 1976-77 season (he played that match as VV was not available). He did not play the remaining two matches that year (the knock out matches). He played his first full season a year later(VV Kumar was dropped to make way for Vasu).

It was in 1979 that Vasu played one of his most memorable league matches. Playing against Southern Railway, his team Alwarpet were looking for an outright win in the then 1 ½ day first division league. Vasu vividly remembers that match.

“Alwarpet needed 3 wickets with 3 minutes left for play on the 2nd evening and we could possibly get in only one last over. We took the new ball, I opened the bowling, took 2 wickets in the first 2 balls with balls that came back into the batsmen. And got the last wicket with the fourth ball of that over. It was a memorable win for us.”

Vasu seemed to have had a liking for Railways even then!!! Years later, he would captain TN to a Ranji Trophy win against Railways.

Vasu against Zaheer, Javed and Imran

His early years in Ranji Trophy were quite successful and that quickly earned him a South Zone selection in January 1980 against the touring Pakistan team that comprised of Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Asif Iqbal and Imran Khan, among others. After a not so bad first innings (where he conceded just at over 2 runs an over), Vasu took the wickets of Zaheer, Imran and Mudassar in the 2nd innings.

Zonal Politics knocks off yet another cricketing talent
In Indian cricket, the inter zonal politics has ‘done in’ many players. In Vasu’s case, it was the intra zonal politics. Quota system within South Zone meant that he would not play for the Zone again, something that put an end to any hopes he may have had of playing at higher levels.

Like VV Kumar(he took 5 wkts in his first bowl in test cricket and yet played just one more test) before, Vasu took 3 big wickets in his first match against a touring side and a strong Pakistan team at that. And yet he was to never find a place in South Zone team for the domestic Duleep Trophy. Quite a mystery.

But he took it in his stride and continued to play for Tamil Nadu through the 1980s and his hard work brought him the highest reward in domestic cricket – TN won the Ranji Trophy championship in 1987-88 under his captaincy with a team comprising young, inexperienced and thus far unproven talent.

And during this decade long stint for TN, he played alongside some of the most well known faces of Tamil Nadu cricket- Micheal Dalvi, B. Kalyanasundaram, P. Ramesh, P.Mukund, TE Srinivasan, AG Satwender Singh, V. Krishnaswamy and V. Sivaramakrishnan. And that Vasu considers as one of the most happy moments of his cricketing career.

He also formed a potent spinning combination with Venkat under whom he played the earlier years of his Ranji Cricket. Vasu believes that during Venkat's rule as captain, there was a lot of unity/bonding among the team members.

The 1987-88 Season
The 2nd half of 1980s were fruitful years for TN cricket. Several young cricketers came into limelight. The big boost for TN came in 1987-88 when the team lifted the Ranji Trophy (and unfortunately, remains to date, the last time).

It was almost a transition period for TN cricket. Several of the old guards had left the scene. Venkat, Bharat Reddy, Jabbar…

Past 30 and having played a decade of Ranji cricket, Vasudevan captained (for the first time) a youthful but inexperienced Tamil Nadu team that year. In the first half of the 1980s, TN had had a good solid side that however failed to make too much headway in the knock out stages of the Ranji. The big one had continued to elude.

In the back drop of this, Tamil Nadu entered the 87-88 season with very little hope, especially given that competitors, Karnataka and Hyderabad, boasted strong sides with GRV, Brijesh Patel, Kirmani, Roger Binny for Karnataka and Narasimha Rao, Khalid Abdul Qayyum and Abdul Azeem leading a strong batting line and spin twins Arshad Ayub and Shivlal Yadav forming the core of the Hyderabad team.

However, what TN seemed to have that season was a strong captain, in Vasu who brought the team together, and a bunch of energetic youngsters.

Robin, VB, Venkatramana, Senthilnathan, UR Radhakrishnan, PC Prakash were all in their early years of Ranji cricket trying to make a mark for themselves, LS was struggling with his bowling, WV Raman had not yet established himself. Srikkanth was in and out that season (serving India). Vasudevan was the only ‘star’ in the team.

Looking back to the start of that season, Vasudevan says, “ All I wanted the team to do was take it match by match and to give it their best shot in every match.”

Luck that deserted him in the early 80s in terms of Zonal appearances seemed to be on his side that season. Tamil Nadu’s first 3 matches that season were against the minnows of SZ cricket-Kerala, Andhra and the new entrants Goa. TN scored outright wins against all three to go in with confidence to face the two biggies, Hyderabad and Karnataka.

Despite giving away the first innings lead to a strong Hyderabad batting line up, TN held its head high having scored over 400 runs. TN lost on a turner to Karnataka in the last match, despite Vasu taking 6 for 30 to bundle out Karnataka for less than 100 in its 2nd innings.

TN qualified for the knock out as the SZ champions and that was a big achievement for Vasu.

Knock Out Matches

TN posted a 500 plus score in each of the 3 knock out matches that year. Facing UP in the quarters( those days UP was a strong batting side with Sashikant Khandkar and Chaturvedi being prolific run getters on the domestic scene). VB’s big hundred helped TN post 500 plus and Venkatramana, in his first season of Ranji cricket, bowled out UP for 190 with a 5 wicket haul. Surprisingly, Srikkanth captaining that match, decided to bat again and TN won on first innings.

Bowling against Sixer Sidhu

The Semi Final was against Punjab, a team that included the in-form Sidhu. 6 months earlier, he had the country on rage with rampage hitting in the World Cup of 1987. This time TN scored over 600. With Sidhu firing away, TN was under pressure with Punjab at 1/200.

On asked if he felt the match slipping away when during the Ashwini Kapoor-Sidhu partnership, Vasu said, “ We knew that Sidhu’s wicket was vital. And that his wicket would turn the match in our favour. I still remember that great catch by PC Prakash at Long Off to send back Sidhu. That was the turning point of the match.”

“ That year saw some fantastic fielding by us. Robin was outstanding. And so were some of the other youngsters in the team. The catch by PC in many ways showed what a young and energetic team could achieve.”

For the knock out matches that year, Tamil Nadu had brought back the experienced V. Sivaramakrishnan to bolster the middle order. His induction into the team greatly strengthened the catching.

Ranji Trophy Final

TN was put on the back foot early on day 1 with a big century partnership between the experienced Yusuf Khan and Churi. Once Vasu broke through that partnership, Railways faltered and was bowled out for 350. Venkatramana once again was in the thick of action with a 7 wicket haul.

All the batsmen contributed, with VB, in dominant form that year, and V. Shiv just missing hundreds. But the star with the bat once again, as he had been many times that season, was Robin Singh. He struck another century thus giving TN the vital first innings lead. TN ended up scoring over 700.

7 wickets in his final Ranji innings

Vasudevan, a decade after his first full season, ended the season in grand style picking up 7 wickets in what turned out to be his last Ranji bowl, giving TN an innings win and the Ranji Trophy. It was a fitting finale for a man who had rolled his arm over tirelessly for the state and had not got just rewards from the zone. It was a moment of glory for Vasu as he held the trophy aloft that day at Chepauk. It was just reward for someone who had turned his arm, over after over, through the 1980s without ever getting a fair deal.

Ranji Victory and Impact on TN Players

The triumphant TN team went to Australia in 1988 under the captaincy of Vasu. He enjoyed playing against a strong West Australia side that included Graham Wood, Terry Alderman, Mike Veletta, Geoff Marsh and Tom Moody. His Tamil Nadu team was also honoured by Sports Ministry of Western Australia.

Under him emerged into the limelight talented youngsters such as VB, Venkatramana and Robin Singh.

The 1987-88 season saw VB and Robin score over 500 runs each, while on the bowling M. Venkatramana had a spectacular first season picking up 35 wickets. Vasu himself picked up over 25 wickets.

The Ranji win had an immediate positive impact on TN players. Within the next year or two, Robin and Venkatramana had been picked for the West Indies tour, VB played one dayers in India and New Zealand and WV Raman too came into the reckoning.

It is another tale that the stints for all of them proved short and bitter Robin came back in the mid 90s as an all rounder in one day cricket but in those early years of Ranji and Duleep Trophy cricket he was a batsman best suited for the longer version of the game. Quite an irony that he finally became branded as a specialist one day cricketer. VB and Ramana faded quickly and never came back.

Irani Trophy Glory – 9 wickets and a win

Vasu had decided after the finals victory that he would retire. However, one other glory awaited him. He stayed on for a few more months to play the season opening Irani Trophy later that year(1988). He picked up 5 wickets in the first innings against a strong Rest of India attack( Sidhu, Arun Lal and co) in October 1988. But his effort was undone by a poor batting display by TN as they conceded a 1st innings lead of over 200 runs.

Vasu however had the last laugh taking 4 wickets in the 2nd innings helping dramatically bowl out Rest of India for 130, thus taking 9 wickets in the match. This along with Ranji Final remains as one of his favourite matches.

VB’s blistering 2nd innings century against Gopal Sharma and Hirwani and V. Shiv’s defiant innings helped TN chase 340 plus to win the Irani Trophy on the final afternoon.

Timing of Retirement

With this performance, Vasu bid adieu to state cricket and would never play again for TN. That may have been a defining moment for Tamil Nadu cricket. At 33 and with over 25 wickets that year (not including the Irani Trophy haul), Vasu was good enough for a few years.

Perhaps he was apprehensive of going the VV Kumar exit way!!!! Also, his SPIC club team mate Sunil Subramaniam ( whom he had watched grow under his watchful eyes at the SPIC nets) was waiting in the wings. Had Vasudevan continued for a couple of year more, he may well have bonded together the young team further and may have helped roll out a few more into the national team. That of course, is a matter of debate.

Vasu decided that he had had his time and unlike VV Kumar a decade earlier, had an exit on his own terms.

After winning the Ranji trophy and having left behind a confident team, Vasu had hoped that TN would win the Trophy again in the coming years. There was no shortage of talent in the team. And that was a big disappointment for Vasudevan. However, he believes that application was lacking overall.

The team had gained immediate recognition at the national level immediately after winning the Ranji Trophy. And yet, we let it slip by (he however says Robin Singh’s case was unfortunate).

Vasu is also disappointed at the fading away of spin bowling talent in the state. He says ‘These days cricketers in TN believe that only batsmen can move up, into the higher grade. And that is unfortunate. ”

“ I used to push them to bowl, but they would only want to bat. Ravi Shastri was a prime example of how one could do well in both. Ravi would bowl for 2 hours in the nets and then come back and bat for two hours. That’s the difference between TN and Bombay cricketers. Spin bowlers need to toil for hours. Hard work is lacking in TN cricket. And it is a lot less purposeful.”

Vasu continued to play league cricket after his Ranji retirement. One of the highlights of his league stint was winning the Palayampatti shield for 5 years under his captaincy (playing for SPIC). While at Alwarpet earlier, he won the first division trophy thrice. A century against Duleep Mendis’ Sri Lanka(Ceylon) team in the Gopalan Trophy in the late 1970s remains one of his best batting displays. He incidentally score 3 hundreds for TN.

In his last ever league game, a couple of years ago, Vasu, at the age of 50, picked up 7 wickets to help his team gain promotion. That says it all about Vasu and his commitment to cricket.
(Incidentally, this writer umpired that match of his at the IIT Stadium and had the honour of watching him bowl from close quarters).

S.Vasudevan currently runs a software company in Chennai and can be reached on 99400 48900

Monday, October 1, 2007

Sarangapani Koil Thiru Kudanthai

Maximum number of Azhvaars have sung praise after Srirangam and Tirupathi
Located between two rivers, Cauvery and Arasalaaru, in the heart of Kumbakonam, once the capital of the Chola Kingdom is the Sarangapani Divya Desam where Lord Aaravamudhan is seen in a Uthana Sayana Posture. This is the third tallest Temple Tower among the Divya Desams in Tamil Nadu at 150ft after Srirangam(236ft) and Srivilliputhur(192 ft).

ஆரா அமுதே அடியேன் உடலம்  நின்பால் அன்பாயே 
நீராய்  அலைந்து கரைய உருக்குகின்ற நெடுமாலே 
சீர் ஆர் செந்நெல் கவரி வீசும் செழு நீர் திரு குடந்தை 
ஏர் ஆர் கோலம் திகழ கிடந்தாய் கண்டேன் எம்மானே  - Thiruvoimozhi (5-8-1)

It was after listening to this Tamil verse 'Aaraavamudhe' composed by NammAzhvaar and after being totally swarmed by its content "Aayirathil Ippathe"( these 10 verses of the 1000), that Vaishnavite savant Natha Muni wanted to listen to the 1000 verses of Divya Prabandham.

Not knowing where to go to collect the entire Prabandham, Natha Muni invoked the blessings of Lord Aaraavamudhan who directed him to go to Azhvaar Tirunagari, near Tirunelveli, to meet NammAzhvaar and to compile the works of the Divya Prabandham. Having searched for the 1000 verses, Natha Muni actually got to compile the entire 4000verses (Nalaayira Divya Prabandham).

Being responsible for the compilation of the famed 4000 verses by showing Natha Muni the right direction, the Lord here is also called ‘Aaraavamudha Azhvaar’.
Some parts of the temple were built in the 7th Century AD by the famous Pallava King Mahendra Varma but the real construction of the temple is said to have been done by the Cholas and later renovated by the famous Vijayanagara King Krishnadeva Raya.

In an effort to test the patience of the Tri-Murthies and in order to find out as to who is most patient, Sage Brigu once kicked Lord Vishnu on the chest. An embarrassed Goddess Lakshmi left the Lord, who in search of her came to Tirupathi. At Tirupathi, the Lord got married to Goddess Padmavathi. To save himself from an angry Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu is said to have hid inside a small cave here. To this day, one can see a small Sannidhi below the earth inside this temple, near the sanctum sanctorum.

Undertaking penance to repent his arrogant action, Brigu was reborn as Hema Rishi and Goddess Lakshmi was born as his daughter. It is said that Brigu gave his daughter in marriage to Lord Sarangapani.

ThiruMazhisai Azhvaar and ‘Slightly Raised Reclining Posture’ of the Lord-Uthaana Sayanam
Seeing the sleeping posture of the Lord, a curious ThiruMazhisai Azhvaar questioned if his tiredness was the reason for him to be lying down in his sleeping posture. After hearing this, it is believed that the Lord slightly raised his posture to greet the Azhvaar. Feeling the guilt of having caused strain on the Lord, ThiruMazhisai Azhvaar asked him to remain as is. And the Lord remained so ever after. To this day, one can see the Lord in a slightly ‘raised reclining’ posture(Uthaana Saayee).
நடந்த கால்கள் நொந்ததோ நடுங்கு நில மேனமாய்  
கிடந்த  மேய்  குலுங்கவோ விலங்கு மால் வரைசுரம்
கடந்த கால் பரப்பிக் காவேரிக் கறைக் குடந்திஆயுள்
கிடந்த  வாரே எழுந்திருந்து பேசு, வாழி கேசவனே

Azhvaars praising the Lord
Also, after Srirangam (11) and Tirupathi (10), the Sarangapani temple has the maximum number of Azhvaars (7 of them) singing praise of the Lord.

Sarangapani temple also has one of the biggest temple chariots and is said to have been presented to the Lord by Thirumangai Azhvaar himself.

Thiru Pallaandu and Sarangapani
PeriyaAzhvaar in his ThiruPallaandu refers to the Kudanthi Lord “சார்ங்கம் என்னும் வில்லாண்டான் தன்னை …” ( the Lord with a ‘Sarangam’ bow in hand….)

Sanctum housed on a Chariot
Lord Vishnu came down from Vaikuntam in his chariot to marry Goddess Lakshmi here at Kudanthai. The main sanctum has been conceived like a chariot with wheels drawn by horses and elephants and is truly a splendid sight to watch. There are two entrances to the sanctum sanctorum, the southern entrance and the northern entrance (each is open for 6 months in a year). The Utsav moorthy here is regarded with the same importance as the Moolavar.

As seen in the story on Srirangam Lord Ranganatha had settled down with the Prana Vaakruthi Vimaanam on the banks of Cauvery in Srirangam. The Lord  told Vibheeshana that he would settle down with the Vaidheega Vimaanaam at Kudanthai. Hence, this temple is 2nd only to Srirangam among the Divya Desams.

The Name Thiru Kudanthai
Foreseeing some difficult times, Brahmma placed the Vedic content, nectar and the seeds of creation inside a pot (Kudam in Tamil), which then slipped all the way and down to this place. Shiva pierced the pot and the nectar flowed in two parts – one into the Mahaamagam Tank and the other into the Lotus Flower Tank. As the nectar flowed into the tank through a pot (Kudam), this place came to be called Thiru ‘Kudanthai’

A visit to this temple, it is believed, will help get rid of one’s past sins, just as a trip to Kasi in the North, would. It is sacred to bathe in the lotus water bed in the temple tank.

Lord does Shraadham for a Brahmin
Lakshmi Narayana Swami was a brahmachari and was devoted to Lord Aaravamudhan. It was he who built the Raja Gopuram. He was worried about his final rites as he was a brahmachari. Pleased with his devotion, the Lord himself is said to have performed the final rites. Also, every year, in the Tamil month of Aipasi, the Lord is said to perform the Shradham for Lakshmi Narayana Swami.

Pancha Ranga Kshetram
ThiruKudanthai is a Pancha Ranga Kshetram

"அன்ய க்ஷேத்ர க்ரிய பாவம் புண்ய க்ஷேத்ர வினச்யதி  
புண்ய க்ஷேத்ர கிருதம் பாவம், வாரனச்ய வினச்யதி 
வாரனச்ய கிருதம் பாவம் கும்பகோணம் விநச்யதி 
கும்பகோணம் கிருதம் பாவம் கும்பகோணம் விநச்யதி "

There is no swarga Vaasal at the Saarangapani temple. About 50000 people are expected to attend the Vaikunta Ekadesi festival.There are festivals all through the year at this temple. Other Temples to visit: Raamaswamy ( Raama in a grand standing posture) and Chakrapani temple.
Quick Facts

Moolavar            : Aaraavamudhan – East Facing, Uthaana Sayana Posture
Thaayar              : Komalavalli Thaayar
Azhavaar Praise : Periyaazhvaar, Pey Azhvaar, Bhoothath Azhvaar, Nam Azhvaar, Thirumangai                                       Azhvaar, Thirumazhisai Azhvaar, Andal,
Paasurams          : 52

The temple is open between 730am –12 30pm and 4pm-9pm
Contact : Soundara Raja Bhattar @ 94863 10896/ 0435 2427218
Location : 3Kms West of the Railway Station
Auto        : Rs. 50 from Railway Station and Rs. 40 from Bus Stand
Place to Stay : VPR Lodge/Siva International 0435 2424013 (Economical) and Hotel Green Park                                     0435 2402853/Aditya/ Raya's (Premium)

For a Divya Desam trip in and around Kumbakonam by car, one can contact: Saravanan (Cab) @ 99945 46416/ Auto Murugan @ 99525 29356/ Auto Suresh@ 94451 60667 / Auto Senthil@ 99449 54567