Friday, May 22, 2009

Azhagar Chitrai Festival 2009

Azhagar draped in a Green Vastram entered the artificially pumped in water on the Northern banks of Vaigai earlier this month

Several lakh devotees stayed awake through the night to gather on the banks of the Vaigai to witness Lord Azhagar’s arrival,from Thallakulam, in his Golden Horse Vaahanam on Saturday (9th May) morning.

Immediately after his entry into the river, Kallazhagar met with Veera Raghava Perumal of Madurai at the specially erected mandapam on the river banks.The story goes that a priest had saved Lord Azhagar from a fire and asked for a wish, he asked for the first respects after Azhagar entered the Vaigai to be given to his(priest's)Lord Veera Raghava Perumal of Madurai.

Procession from Azhagar Koil to Madurai

Azhagar had begun his 20km procession from Thiru Maliruncholai, on the foot of the Azhagar hills on Thursday evening (7th May) at 7pm. He informed his guard Karuppanaswamy at the Eastern Tower of the temple, of his departure from the temple.

Ethir Sevai

For the next 24 hours, Azhagar stopped at one mandagapadi after another to the beating of drums, bursting of fire crackers and the dancing of the villagers as he made his way to Madurai.

The story goes that the people of Madurai were anxious for an early glimpse of Azhagar and that as a welcoming gesture of Azhagar into their city, they are said to have come in the direction of Azhagar Koil for a darshan of the Lord. Hence, this darshan of Maduriites along the Madurai- Azhagar Koil Road has now come to be called ‘Ethir Sevai’.

Andal's Garland Handed over to Azhagar at Thallakulam
After providing darshan along the Madurai Highway to thousands of devotees, Azhagar entered the Prasanna Venkatachalapathy temple at Thallakulam for the next significant event of the Azhagar Chitrai Thiruvizha.

At this temple, after an hour of special Alankara Thirumanjanam comprising of milk, sandal wood powder, curd and honey, Azhagar decked up in his new attire, accepted the garland worn by Andal of Srivilliputhur. Tthis was brought into Madurai by the priests of Srivilliputhur earlier in the day.

Kallazhagar is the only Divya Desam Lord other than Tirupathi Venkatachalapathy to adorn the garland worn by Andal.

Prospects for the next harvest season
It is an age old belief that the attire of the Lord on this Golden Horse Vahanam trip gives the villagers residing around Madurai an indication of the prospects for the next harvest season. Hence, this particular event is of great significance to the villagers who had gathered in at this temple and were looking out for positive signals from the Lord. This year Azhagar was draped in a beautiful Green vastram.

Lord leaves Thallakulam temple in his Garuda Vaahanam

At 2.15am on Saturday morning, Azhagar mounted on to the Golden Horse Vahanam and for the next 5 hours went around the jam packed streets (there was just enough place for one to stand!!!) of Madurai stopping on the way at specially constructed mandagapadis to give darshan to the devotees. The youngsters, who carried the Lord on this Golden Horse Vaahanam, did a commendable job right through the trip swinging and swaying to the right and left every few minutes drawing loud applause from the devotees.

Non Stop Sprinkling of water
One of the specialities of the entire procession of Azhagar from Thirumaliruncholai to the time he enters the Vaigai was the non stop sprinkling of water on the Lord - said to be a happy gesture to thank the Lord for fulfilling their prayers and for giving them a good harvest as well as an effort to keep him cool in the hot summer month of Chitrai.

Azhagar into the Vaigai
Just after 7am on Saturday (9th May) morning, Azhagar entered the Vaigai amidst loud chanting by the devotees. The story goes that a priest who saved the idol of Azhagar several centuries ago wanted Veera Raghava Perumal of Madurai to have the first honours after the Lord entered the Vaigai. To this day, this ritual is followed. Once into the Vaigai, Azhagar met with Veera Raghava Perumal, who had been waiting patiently in his silver Horse Vaahanam.

Having garlanded Veera Raghava Perumal on the banks of Vaigai, Azhagar proceeded on a 12km trip, along the banks of the Vaigai, to Vandiyur in the hot Saturday sun.

Village folk lore has it that Azhagar made his trip to Vaigai to attend the wedding of his sister Meenakshi (Amman) and angered at hearing the news of her already concluded marriage, refused to cross the river. However, according to the Vaishnavite legend, the purpose of Azhagar’s trip to Madurai was to liberate Manduka Maharishi from Durvasa’s curse and to provide him moksham.

A well thought out Economic Model
It must be noted here that the Meenakshi Thiruvizha(the Saivite Festival) was originally held in the Tamil Calendar month of Maasi and was shifted to Chitrai during the time of Thirumalai Nayakar.

Parthasarathy Bhattar of Azhagar Koil says that earlier Azhagar used to enter the Vaigai at Thenoor, a village west of Madurai. “It was during Thirumalai Nayakar’s time, about 400 years ago, that this too was moved to Madurai.”

Interestingly, there is said to be an economic reason as well behind these moves. Wanting to make this the biggest festival of Madurai, Thirumalai Nayakar was of the belief that the move to bring the big Saivite festival alongside the Chitrai Azhagar Vaishnavite festival would make the Madurai economy flourish and thrive.

Several centuries later, the vision of Thirumalai Nayakar has definitely come true. This certainly is by far the single biggest festival of Madurai and the roads of the city were buzzing with brisk activity over the fortnight of the Chitrai Thiruvizha with shops and stalls making their best business of the year. Exhibitions and fairs also marked the Chitrai Thiruvizha.

Dasavatharam Display
After his trip to Vandiyur, Azhagar made his way to ‘Thenoor Mandapam’ where, on his Golden Garuda Vahanam, the Lord enacted the scene of liberating Manduka Maharishi from his curse and providing moksham to the rishi. Later, on Sunday (10th May) night, Azhagar delighted the devotees by displaying his Dasavatharam forms at the Rama Rayar Mandapam.

Finally on Tuesday morning, Azhagar went on a ‘Poo Pallakku’ to Karuppana Swamy Koil and from there made his way back via Appan Tirupathi to reach his abode at Thirumaliruncholai on Wednesday(13th May) morning bringing to end another year of Chitrai Thiruvizha, the biggest festival of Madurai.

செஞ்சொல் கவிகாள், உயிர் காத்து ஆட்செயம் மின்
திருமாலிருஞ்சோலை வஞ்சக் கள்வன்,
மா மாயன், மாயக்கவியாய் வந்து,

என் நெஞ்சும் உயிரும் உல் கலந்து
நின்றார் அறியாவண்ணம்,

என் நெஞ்சும் உயிரும் அவை உண்டு
தானே ஆசி, நிறைந்தானே.

Tail piece:
While the biggest, oldest and the most popular event of the 9 day annual Azhagar Chitrai Thiruvizha in Madurai, that of Kallazhagar, of Thiru Maliruncholai, dancing his way into the Vaigai on his Golden Horse Vaahanam, took place in a grand style with lakhs of devotees queuing up on all the four sides of the Vaigai, including on the road bridge above, (some were even seen hanging from the pillars beneath the road bridge!!! ) what was not so pleasant was the pumping of (artificial) water into the river through a tanker a day before the event (Yes, water was released from the Vaigai dam, but it was only a trickle). Old timers in Madurai talk of the delightful times when Lord Azhagar used to enter the river with knee deep water across the entire stretch that made this event truly special and a treat to watch.

Perhaps this is symbolic of the times we live in…

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Indhalur paasuram

நும்மைத் தொழுதோம், நும்-தம் பணிசெய்து
இருக்கும் நும் அடியோம், இம்மைக்கு இன்பன் பெற்றோம்
எந்தாய் இந்தலூரே...

எம்மைக் கடிதாக் கருமம் அருளி,
ஆ ஆ என்று இறங்கி,
நம்மை ஒருகால் காட்டி நடந்தால்
நாங்கள் உய்யோமே - Thiru Mangai Azhvaar - 1328

Thirumangai Azhvaar visits Thiru Indhalur and standing outside waiting for a darshan of Parimala Rangan, he says that he with other devotees are ready to serve him. He asks the Lord to come before them, reveal himself and show a glimpse of His Self.

If he does so, each of his devotees will be elevated to another level.

It was at Thiru Indhalur that Thirumangai Azhvaar threatened to leave the temple without singing praise as the Lord shut the door on the Azhvaar(

(Related Paasuram -