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.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Railway Stations and Retiring Rooms

The introduction of toilets in Trains

My endorsement of retiring rooms in railway stations continues, even more so now after my stay, earlier this week, at the retiring room of the Bangalore City railway station.

Looks like the station has outsourced the retiring rooms to 3rd party. The rooms have a fresh, clean look and is quite refreshing. There are old historic train stories outside every room.

Ramanujam Sridhar’s article in Brand Line(Business Line) today 15/11/07 talked about the value, readers can bring to the society through their letters to the editor.

And inside the bathroom of the retiring room I stayed, I found a laminated board with this 'nuisance story'…...

Here goes the story:

Toilets were introduced on Indian trains only after this passenger, Okhit Chandra Sen, wrote a letter to the Divisional Traffic Superintendent Sahabgunj Divisional Office, in 1909, complaining about how he missed the train when he got down to attend the call of nature.

Reproduced below as is, is a letter the passenger wrote almost a 100 years ago - a little humourous in language but very significant in its contribution to passenger comfort on the Indian Railways.


Beloved Sir,

I am arrive by passenger train at Ahmedpore station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit.

I am therefore sent to privy. Just as I am doing the nuisance that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with Lota in one hand and dhoti in the next when I fall over and expose all my shockings to many female women on the platform I got leaved on Ahmedpore Station.

This is too much bad for passengers go to make dung that dam guard not wait train for five minutes for him. I am therefore praying otherwise I am making big report to papers. Pray your honour to make big fine on that dam guard for public sake otherwise I am making big report to papers

Without Okhit Chandra Sen’s letter, we may not have had toilets in trains!!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Varadaraja Perumal Kanchipuram

‘Perumal Koil’ among Divya Desams
Varadaraja Perumal is credited with the handing over of Ramanuja to Srirangam

The last temple (15th) in the series on Kanchipuram Divya Desams, ThiruKachi Athigiri - Varadaraja Perumal temple is referred to as the ‘Perumal Koil’ among Divya Desams.

While Srirangam is referred to as ‘ The Koil’ and Tirupathi as the ‘Malai’ among Divya Desams, Kanchipuram Varadaraja Perumal temple is known as the ‘Perumal Koil’. Varadaraja Perumal temple is on a 22acre temple complex in Chinna (small) Kanchipuram on the Kanchipuram - Chengalpet -Madras road.

There are two big Gopurams - the Eastern Gopuram built by Krishnadeva Raaya and the Western temple tower built earlier by the Pallavas. Later, several rulers contributed to the renovation of this temple. Several beautiful sculptures can be seen at this temple.

The story-Brahmma completes Ashwametha Yaagam

Brahmma wanted to see Lord Vishnu, on earth, in his full form. He undertook penance and the Lord appeared in the form of water in Pushkaram and in the form of forest in Naimisarinyam. He was then asked to do Ashwametha Yaagam at ‘Sathya Kshetram’.

It was here in Kanchipuram that Brahmma performed the Ashwametha Yaagam. As seen in the earlier Divya Desam stories (relating to Kanchipuram), Saraswathi was angry that Brahmma undertook the Yaagam without her support and presence and adopted different ways to stop the Yaagam.

Lord Vishnu took different forms to thwart her attempts. At ThiruVekka, he stopped river VegaVathi by sleeping across as a dam, at Ashtabhujam he came with 8 hands to kill the asura and subdue Kaali, at Thiru Thanka, he appeared as a flame to provide light (after Saraswathi had plunged the place into darkness).

Finally, Lord Vishnu is said to have landed here in his Punyakoti Vimaanam and appeared before Brahmma to signal the completion of the Ashwametha Yaagam.

One finds the Azhagiya Singar (Lord Narasimhar) Sannidhi on the way to Varadaraja Perumal Sannidhi. 24 steps from the Eastern side(entrance) leads one to the Prakaram of the Varadaraja Perumal. Once into the Sannidhi, another few steps takes one to the tall standing posture of VaradarajaPerumal, seen facing the West.

Brahmma visits Lord Varadarajan once a year
Belief is that Brahmma comes here once a year on the full moon day in the Tamil month of Chitrai (April-May) -around mid night- for a darshan of Varadarajan. On this day, it is the practice for the priests to place food inside the sanctum and to wait outside for 24 minutes. At the end of this, the food is said to smell sweeter.
Sun’s rays on Lord Varadarajan
For 15 days succeeding this (after the full moon day in Chitrai), Sun’s rays fall directly on Lord Varadarajan at the time of dusk.
(At SriVaikuntam- Nava Tirupathi-, Sun’s rays fall directly on Lord Vaikuntanathan on two days (April-May and October-November period) every year.)

On a Trip to Pazhaya Seevaram
During the Muslim invasion, the moolavar deity(Lord Varadarajan) is said to have been damaged. As a damaged deity could not be worshipped, it was immersed in the temple tank. The moolavar that we see today at Kanchipuram was brought from Pazhaya Seevaram, about 20kms from Kanchipuram. In memory of this, the Utsava idol of Lord Varadarajan is taken on a procession once a year, during the Tamil month of Thai (Jan-Feb) to Pazhaya Seevaram. Lord Narasimha is also taken on a procession to Keezh Seevaram during the Sankaranthi period (Kanu).

Athi Varadan-The Original Moolavar- once in 40 years
The original moolavar of Lord Varadarajan which was immersed in the temple tank - Athi Varadan- is taken out once in 40 years and placed outside for public worship for a period of 10 days. This event took place last in 1979 and the next one is slated for 2019.

Street Procession
Every Friday, Goddess Perundevi Thaayar goes out on a procession within the prakaram(Goddess does not leave the temple premises). Lord Varadarajan goes on a street procession every month on Pancha Paravam days. When this falls on a Friday, the Lord goes out on a street procession with the Goddess waiting at the Main Gopuram for Lord Varadarajan to return. From the main gopuram, Lord Varadarajan and Perundevi Thaayar come back together and both proceed to the garden behind Sudhasaran sannidhi for the devotees to offer their worship.

The street procession of Lord Varadarajan on Garuda mount in the tamil month of Vaikaasi is one of the most popular festivals here at Kanchipuram.

During winter, Lord Varadarajan wears a sweater to protect him from cold. Sacred bath for the Lord during this period take place with hot water/milk.

On Navarathri(all days) and Theppotsavam festival days, Lord and Goddess are seen together within the temple prakaram.

Golden Lizard
Two disciples of Gauthama Rishi used to fill water every day for their Guru. One day, to their shock, they found a lizard jumping out when they placed the tumbler in front of their Guru. An angry Rishi cursed the two for their carelessness and they instantly turned into Lizards. The 2 disciples stayed here at Kanchipuram as lizards until Indra came, as Elephant Gajendra, to worship Varadarajan Perumal and relieved them from their curse.

In memory of this, there is a golden lizard and a silver lizard outside the Varadarajan Sannidhi. Belief is that one will be relieved of all diseases if one prays to Lord Varadarajan and touches the Lizard on the way out.

Thirumangai Azhvaar, BhootathAzhvaar and PeyAzhvaar have praised Lord Varadarajan. Kanchipuram is the birth place of Poigai Azhvaar and Vedantha Desigan. It was here that ThirumangaiAzhvaar was given money for the construction/renovation of the Srirangam temple.

அத்தியூறான் புல்லை ஊர்வான் அணி மணியின் துத்திசேர் 

நாகத்தின் மேல் துயில்வான் முதி மறை ஆவான் 
மா கடல் நஞ்சு உண்டான் 
தனக்கும் இறை  ஆவன் எங்கள் பிரான் - பூதத்தாழ்வார் 

Special Privilege to Vedantha Desikar
Vedantha Desikar( of Thoopal) visits Varadaraja Perumal once a year during the month of Puratasi(Sept-Oct). This is the only Divya Desam, where Desikar enters the Sanctum of Lord Varadaraja. No other Azhvaar has this privilege.

Brihaspathi’s curse
A debate took place in the court of the Devas as to which was more worthy – ‘Family life’ or “Life of a Sanyasi’. When they could not come to a conclusive answer, the Devas looked to their preceptor, Brihaspathi for a final decision. Brihaspathi pronounced that Sanyasin was better.

Angered at this decision of not recognizing the difficulty of family life, Indra cursed Brihaspathi to become a poor Brahmin with children. Leading this life, Brihaspathi one day chased away a hungry dog which had come inside his house and was cursed for not providing refuge to a hungry animal. And he was turned into a dog.

The Devas, by now, were feeling the absence of their preceptor. When Indra approached Brahmma to help get Brihaspathi back amongst them, he was asked to accompany Brahmma to ThiruKachi where Brihaspathi was already undertaking a penance before Varadaraja Perumal. Answering their prayers, Lord Varadarajan is said to have given Brihaspathi his original status and form.

The Name
As Lord Vishnu accepted requests of everyone and gave what they wanted, he came to be called ‘Varadar’(one who gives).

Lord Varadarajan Saves Ramanuja
Aalavanthaan met Ramanuja for the first time here in Kanchipuram.The story goes that Ramanuja once lost his way in the Vindhya forest. Lord Varadarajan is said to have appeared as a hunter and carried Ramanuja all the way to Kanchipuram. A tired Varadarajan (the hunter) asked Ramanuja for water. When Ramanuja brought water from the street well, he is said to have seen Lord Varadarajan, along with the Goddess, disappear right in front of him into the temple sannidhi. To this day, sacred water for Lord Varadarajan is brought from this street well.

Ramanuja moved from Kanchi to Srirangam
ThiruKachi Nambi used to ‘fan’ Lord Varadarajan to prevent the Lord from sweating under the heat. It is believed that he also used to have daily interactions with the Lord. Ramanuja, who was performing the daily rituals for Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal, had to be moved to Srirangam to succeed Aalavanthan. ThiruKachi Nambi is said to have got the permission from Varadarajan to allow Ramanuja to move to Srirangam. Hence, Varadaraja Perumal is credited with the handing over of Ramanuja to Srirangam.

Quick Facts
Moolavar      : Lord Varadarajan West Facing Standing Posture 
Goddess        : Perundevi Thaayar facing East (Separate Sannidhi)
Azhvaar        :Thirumangai(4),BhoothathAzhvaar(2), PeyAzhvaar(1)

Time             : 630am-1230pm and 330pm-830pm
Contact         : Rangaraja Bhattar @ 93643 22440/ 94449 93370 or Krishna @ 98412 82616
Address         : 54/40 South Mada Street, Chinna Kanchipuram 631 501
Festivals        : All round the year- well known for Prabandham recital on all festive occasions

How to reach
Temple town Kanchipuram is about 75kms from Madras. One can take the Madras- Bangalore highway or Madras-Chengalpet route to reach Kanchipuram. There are 15 Divya Desams in Kanchipuram alone. Also, in Kanchipuram, are two famous Saivite Temples- Ekaambareswar and Kamakshi Amman Temples.

Train Facilities: There is a new railway station in Kanchipuram- the line has been recently converted to broad gauge- with trains running between Chengalpet and Arakkonam. There are also daily local trains between Madras and Kanchipuram via Chengalpet.

Hotels : There are a number of good hotels in the heart of the town to stay. Good Restaurants available including Saravana Bhavan.

Auto Contact to take one around all Divya Desams in Kanchipuram:  Narasimhan@ 94432 30556/ Anand @ 99407 35272

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

ThiruPutkuzhi Vijaya Raghava Perumal

Two Divya Desams having the same story - Does the Jataayu Moksham story relate to Pulla Bhoothangkudi or Thiru PutKuzhi?
Lord Vijaya Raaghavan on Horse Vaahanam is a special feature

Located 12kms west of Kanchipuram on the Madras -Bangalore Highway, near Balu Chetty Chattiram (about 80kms from Madras), the Vijaya Raaghava Perumal temple at ThiruPutkuzhi relates to the episode of Jataayu Moksham in the Raamaayana.

The Story - Jataayu Moksham??
Eagle King Jataayu, a friend of King Dasharatha, had fought a valiant battle trying to rescue Sita from the Lankan king Ravana. Finally, the bird’s wings were cut off and Jataayu is said to have found Moksham here.

Legend has it that Raama, who had not been able to perform the last rites for his father as he was away in the forest at that time, derived some consolation by performing his obsequies and giving moksham to the Bird. In the Raamayana, this episode is referred to as the death of the 2nd father.

There is a separate sannidhi for Jataayu opposite the temple tank. On all festive occasions, Lord first visits the Jataayu sannidhi during his street procession.

Raama is said to have sent an arrow that created a pit here to bring sacred water into this place (this is where the temple tank is currently).

Horse Vahana- A Special Feature
On certain festive occasions, Lord Vijaya Raaghavan goes on street processions mounted on his ‘Horse Vaahanam’. For a moment, one almost feels that this is a real Horse, with its jumping stride and movements. The man who created this horse specifically for Lord Vijaya Raaghava was asked to make another horse. He refused to recreate his magic for anyone other than the Lord.

To this day, when the Lord is taken on a street procession on the Horse Vaahanam, he visits the place where the horse maker lived to pay regards the creater.

Raamaanuja learnt his early lessons here
Raamaanuja learnt the advaitha lessons from Yaadava Prakaasar at this place. The mandapam where he learnt his lessons still exist here.

Sri Devi to the Left of the Lord- A unique feature
Vijaya Raghava Perumal is seen in a sitting posture, having the bird (Jataayu) on his thigh. Not able to bear the smell caused by the final rites and because of the flames that arose out of the cremation of Jaatayu, Sri Devi Thaayar is said to have moved to the other side of the Lord. At this temple, the Goddess is seen to the left of the Lord Vijayaraghava with her head slightly turned in the Lord’s direction (in all Divya Desams, Sri Devi Thaayar is seen to the right of the Lord). Also, the Thaayar Sannidhi is to the left of the Lord…In all Divya Desams, the Thaayar Sannidhi is always to the right of the Lord.

2 Divya Desams with the same story
While each Divya Desam has its own unique story, the Vijayaraaghava temple at Thruputkuzhi shares the same story as another.

As seen earlier in this Divya Desam series (in fact the first story in this series -(, the Jataayu Moksham is a story that relates to Pulla Bhoothangkudi Divya Desam (about 10 kms West of Kumbakonam). The question arises as to how two Divya Desams can have the same event connected to it.

There are many reasons to believe that Pullabhoothangkudi is more likely to be connected with Jataayu Moksham and not ThiruPutkuzhi. ThirumangaiAzhvaar in his praise of the Lord at Pulla Bhoothangkudi refers specifically to Raama with a bow (called Valvil Rama) while in his praise of ThiruPutkuzhi Lord, Thirumangai does not refer directly to Raama.

Also, in several of his Paasurams relating to Pullabhoothangkudi, Thirumangai refers to the Raamaayana. Raama is said to have taken the Chola route to Thirupullani and then to Lanka and is unlikely to have passed through Kanchipuram.

Childless Couple and Unmarried girls
Sincere prayers to Maragadavalli Thaayar at this temple, on 'No Moon' day, by observing fast, is said to yield immediate results for childless couples and unmarried girls.

Thirumangai has praised the ThiruPutKuzhi Lord with 2 Paasurams.

அலங்கெழு தடக்கையாயன் வாயாம்பர் கழியுமாலேன்னுல்லாம் 
மென்னும் புலங்கெழு பொருநீர் புட்குழி பாடும் போதுமோ 
நீர் மலை கென்னும் குளம் கெழு கொல்லி கோமளவல்லி கொடியிடை 
நெடுமழைக் கன்னி  இலங்கு எழில் தோழிக்கு என் நினைந்து இருந்தாய் இட வேந்தை எந்தை பிரானே - Thirumangai Azhvaar

There is no direct reference to Raama or any Raamaayana episode in the above Pasuram. However, in ThirumangaiAzhvaar’s Periya Thirumadal, he says 'மரகதத்தை புட்குழியும் போறேதை …' referring to the Goddess, the location and the Lord. By ‘Porethai’, Thirumangai is possibly referring to 'Lord Rama before the war/going for the war (with Raavana)'

The temple management view is as under:

“Jataayu wanted darshan of Lord Vishnu as seen in ParamaPatham. Acceding to his prayers, the Lord is said to have appeared here as Paramapatha Nathan in a sitting posture. There must have been a definitive reason as to why the historians/our predecessors left behind this story for the ThiruPutKuzhi Divya Desam.”

The commonality to Pullabhoothangkudi and ThiruPutkuzhi Divya Desams does not stop with the story alone. The Bhattars in both the temples are quite ‘devotee friendly’ and explain the temple history in loud and clear voice, that sends positive vibrations to the devotees.

Management of the Temple and Temple Renovation
Sundara Pandyan, the Pandya King, was one of the earliest rulers to have renovated this temple. Raayas, known for their attachment to Vishnu temples, are also said to have contributed to the renovation of this temple.

While the temple currently comes under the endowment board, it is completely run by the Maragadavalli Trust (MSVRP Trust), which has done a commendable job in recent years. What one saw 10 years ago and what one sees now is a complete transformation. The Vijayaraghava temple wears a clean and neat look, with the Trust management cleaning the prakaram on a regular basis. The temple tank, which had worn a barren look several years ago (the Theppam fest had been stopped temporarily in 1974), is now brimming with water.

The Temple requires a Chariot
The one thing the temple lacks today is a Chariot. The trust, which has renovated the temple with devotees’ contribution, is hoping to get a Chariot for this temple over the next year or so.

Theppotsavam in Thai
10 day Brahmotsavam in Maasi
Rama Navami

Quick Facts
Deity          : Vijayaraghavan, East facing sitting posture
Goddess     : Maragadavalli
Azhvaar     : Thirumangai Azhvaar –2 Paasurams
Timing       : 7am-12noon, 4pm-7pm
Contact      : V. Narayanan @ 2724 6501
Address     : Vijayaraghava Perumal Koil, Thiruputkuzhi
                     Via Balu Chetty Chattiram
                     Kanchi District 631 551

How to reach ThiruPutkuzhi
Buses between Chennai and Vellore stop at Balu Chetty Chattiram. Several local buses available from Kanchipuram.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Thiru Kalvanur, Thiru NilaaThingal Thundam

Yet another Controversial tale at the Kanchipuram Divya Desam
Two Divya Desams inside Big Saivite Temples

Divya Desams in Kanchipuram require a very in depth research and analysis and a close look at historical records and inscriptions to answer a few of the unsolved mysteries. Several of the Divya Desam temples here raise some very serious questions.

In the earlier piece on Neeragam, Kaaragam and Kaarvannam, we raised questions on how 3 temples came to be located within the Ooragam Divya Desam temple complex.

In a piece that follows this story, we throw up another big controversy relating to yet another Divya Desam on the outskirts of Kanchipuram (ThiruPutkuzhi).

Thiru Kalvanur and Thiru NilaaThingal Thundam Temple
Today’s story relates to two Divya Desams in Kanchipuram which are housed inside now well known and big Saivite temples - Thiru Kalvanur inside Kaamaakshi Temple and Thiru NilaaThingal Thundam Temple inside Ekaambareshwar Temple. In both these temples, it’s the Saivite priests who perform the daily poojas at the Divya Desams (They are currently not too clued in on Azhvaars, Mangalaasaasanams, Divya Desams and one really cannot blame them for that).

Both these Divya Desams seem to have a very small and almost insignificant presence within these huge Saivite temples.

One wonders why. The Azhvaars who have praised the Lords at these two temples don’t seem to give an answer or even a clue.

For a city that boasts the now renowned Varadaraja Perumal Divya Desam ( to be seen later in this series), these two Divya Desams seem to be almost ‘anti climatic’.

Were the Divya Desams inside Saivite Temples when Thirumangai praised the Lord??
In fact, the indications are that these two Divya Desams were not here inside the Saivite Temples and may have been brought here much later, may be to show the world the coming together of Saivism and Vaishnavism. For, if the Kaamaakshi temple existed then in its current form and if the Divya Desam was in the place it is now within the Kaamaakshi temple, it is very unlikely that Thirumangai Azhvaar would not have made a mention of the presence of the Saivite giant. From this, one can be sure that the two (Kaamakshi temple & Kalvanur Divya Desam as well as Ekaambareshwar temple & NilaaThingal Thundathaan Perumal) were not in the same place at the time Thirumangai praised the Kalvanur and NilaThingal Lord.

Whether the Divya Desam idol came up here later or if the huge Kaamaakshi and Ekaambareshwar temples came up at the Divya Desam temple is a matter for debate, research and analysis.

More Controversy
This is not the end to the controversy. There is one other twist within Thirumangai Azhvaar’s praise of the Lord. In his Paasuram, Thirumangai Azhvaar says,

“Kaaragathaai Kaarvannathullaai Kalvaa………..
Kaamarubhoong Peyraathen Nenjinullaai………”

The Divya Desam inside Kaamaakshi temple is called Thiru Kalvanur and the Lord is called Aathi Varaaha Perumal.

When Thirumangai Azhvaar praises the Lord as Kaaragathaai Kaarvannathullaai Kalvaa, is he referring to the Lord at Kaaragam and Kaarvannam or is he referring to the Kalvanur Divya Desam Lord within Kaamakshi temple as ‘Kalva’.

Thirumangai Azhvaar and his Paasurams
As seen in several of the Divya Desam stories featured in this series, Thirumangai Azhvaar, who has praised the most number of Divya Desam deities (well over ¾ of the 108), has sometimes praised the location alone, in others he has sung verses combining location and the Lord. Sometimes, Thirumangai Azhvaar has sung praise of the Lord with the location and related that particular Divya Desam with reference to several others that he had already seen.

நீரகத்தாய் நெடுவரையினுசி மேலாய்
நிலாத்திங்கள் துண்டத்தாய் நிறைந்த 
கச்சி ஊரகத்தாய் ஒன துறை நீர் வெக்காவுள்ளை 
உள்ளவாருள்ளதாய் உலகமெதும் 

காரகத்தாய் காரவன்னதுல்லாய் கல்வா 
காமருபுங் காவேரியின் தென்பால் மண்ணு 
பேரகத்தாய் பேராதேன் நெஞ்சினுல்லை  
 திருவடியே பேநினேனே

However, in this particular Paasuram, Thirumangai Azhvaar seems to have left a lot to one’s imagination. It looks like he has included 5 and more Divya Desams in this one Paasuram but it does not give one a clear idea as to who he is referring to specifically and also whether some of these temples actually were located in Kanchipuram.

For example, in line 3 above, he makes a specific mention of Ooragam Divya Desam as ‘Kachi Ooragathaai’ confirming the presence of Ooragam in Kanchipuram. No such mention or reference relating to Neeragam, Kaaragam and Kaarvannam.

Reference of Kalvanur Lord in Thirumangai Azhvaar’s Paasuram
The only probable reference that Thirumangai Azhvaar has made of Thiru Kalvanur in this Paasuram is the mention of ‘Kalva’, but as discussed above, one is not sure if he is referring to Kaaragam / Kaarvannam as Kalva or are we to take that as his reference of the Thiru Kalvanur Lord.

However, what one can be reasonably confident of is the fact that these 5-6 Divya Desams were within a touching distance of one another…as he has referred to all of them in one single Paasuram.

Thirumangai Azhvaar must have visited each of these temples in one go and then composed a ‘combined’ praise of the Lord!!!!

Quick Facts
Moolavar ; Aathi Varaaha Perumal Standing Posture West Facing
Thayar   : Anjilai Valli

Thiru NilaaThingal Thundam
Moolavar ; NilaaThingal Thundanthaan Perumal Standing Posture West Facing
Thayar     : NilaaThingal Thunda Thayar

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Thiru Neeragam,Thiru Kaaragam, Thiru Kaarvannam

3 Divya Desams within the Ooragam Temple Complex
Thirumangai Azhvaar praises all three Divya Desams in a single Paasuram

These 3 temples- Neeragam, Kaaragam and Kaarvannam- are currently found within the Ooragam Divya Desam temple complex, North of Kanchipuram bus stand. All these three temples have been praised by Thirumangai Azhvaar in a single Paasuram along with Thiru Ooragam. There are no specific stories relating to any of these temples. However, a close reading of the Paasuram throws open a few questions.

நீரகத்தை........நிலாத்திங்கள் துண்டத்தாய் நிறைந்த 
 கச்சி ஊர்கதை .....நீர் வேக்கவுல்லாய் 
காரகத்தை கார்வன்னதுல்லை கலவா 
பேரகத்தாய் ......பெருமாநுண் திருவடியே பெநிநேனே 

ThiruMangai Azhvaar in his Periya Thirumozhi verse

Thirumangai specifically refers to Ooragam Divya Desam as ‘Kachi Ooragathaai’ confirming the presence of Ulagalantha Perumal in Kanchipuram.

However, when referring to Neeragam, Kaaragam and Kaarvannam in the same Paasuram, Thirumangai does not bring the Kanchi connect, throwing open the question as to whether these three Divya Desams were originally outside Kanchi and were then brought into this temple complex much later, after Thirumangai’s time.

Thirumangai Azhvaar’s devotion and attachment to the Lord stands out. This can be seen in the way he connects Lords from different Divya Desams in a single Paasuram. Even as he is praising one Lord belonging to one Divya Desam, his thoughts seem to be immediately moving to and connecting with Lords belonging to other Divya Desams, that he had already seen.

This particular Paasuram is a perfect example of the beautiful way Thirumangai connects different Divya Desams. Starting with Neeragam, he moves to Nilaa Thingal and then to Ooragam and then brings in Kaaragam and Kaarvannam as well.

Deity : No Moolavar ,Jagadeeswara Perumal(Utsavar)Standing South Facing
Goddess : Nilamangai Valli
Kannan Bhattar

Deity : Karunakara Perumal Standing North Facing
Goddess : Padmaamani, Ramaamani
Vijaraaghava Bhattar

Deity : Kalvar Standing North facing
Goddess : Kamalavalli
Murali Bhattar

Temple Timing: 7am-12noon and 4pm-8pm
Contact : Raghu @ 94425 53820