Friday, February 5, 2010

Thirumangai Azhvaar's Vedu Pari 2010

The story of ‘Thief’ Thirumangai Azhvaar way laying Lord Namperumal and trying to steal his jewels was enacted on the eighth day of the Era Pathu Festival at the Srirangam Ranganatha temple

The last of the Azhvaars- Thirumangai Azhvaar - made a significant contribution, visiting and singing praise of Lord Vishnu in over 85 temples (Divya Desams). While all other Azhvaars got things done by showing love and devotion to the Lord, Thirumangai Azhvaar alone was different.

The only Azhvaar with a spear in his hand, he was forceful, even threatening in his interactions with the Lord, who sometimes had to come down a step to please Thirumangai and to get the Azhvaar to sing praise of him- a couple of cases in point being Thiru Indhalur( and Thiru Ninravur Divya Desams(

Thirumangai turns Thief

Born in Thiru Kuraiyulur, 2kms from the Thiruvali-ThiruNagari Divya Desam near Sirkazhi, Thirumangai Mannan (King), who belonged to the Kallar Community, fell in love with the beautiful Kumudavalli of Annan Koil.

She was keen to get him initiated into Vaishnavism and devoted to Lord Vishnu. To lead him into this path, she laid down ‘wedding’ conditions, one of which was to feed 1008 Vaishnavites every day. The story goes that Thirumangai Mannan, in this attempt, lost a lot of his wealth. To fulfil the conditions, he turned a thief and resorted to ‘stealing’.

One night, Thirumangai saw a newly married couple, decked with jewellery, coming his way. It was Lord Ranganatha of Thirunagari taking along with him Amruthavalli Thayar of Thiruvali. In that darkness, in Vedarajapuram (the village between Thiruvali and Thirunagari), Thirumangai way laid the disguised Lord Ranganatha and threatened him by lashing out his spear. With all his might, he also tried to bite and remove the Perumal’s ring.

Ranganatha initiates Ashtachara Mandiram


Having picked up the jewellery and packed it into a sack, Thirumangai found the bag far too heavy. Despite repeated attempts, he could not lift the bag making him wonder if the person in front of him had a magic mantra. It was then that the disguised Lord Ranganatha initiated the ‘Astachara Mandiram’ by whispering into the ears of Thirumangai and displayed his true form and appeared before Thirumangai in a Kalyana Kolam along with Amruthavalli Thayar.

It was after this initiation that Thirumangai Mannan became Thirumangai Azhvaar.

Prabhandham Festival in Margazhi


Thirumangai Azhvaar wanted the Margazhi Festival to be a Tamil Divya Prabhandham festival as against just the Vedic recital that existed before his time. The 10 day ‘Era Pathu’ festival called ‘Thiruvoimozhi Thirunaal’ was specially created for the Lord to listen to the beautiful Tamil composition of NammAzhvaar.

Vedu Pari Utsavam
At the Ranganatha temple in Srirangam, the story of ‘Vedu Pari’ is enacted every year as part of the eighth day celebrations of the Era Pathu festival. This day is dedicated to Thirumangai in recognition of his contribution to the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham.

Kona Vaiyali

Lord Namperumal had an early evening out on the Vedu Pari day coming out of the Santhana Mandapam at 430pm. Atop a Golden Horse Vahanam, the Pearl Pandyan Kondai adorned Namperumal was seen with a sword, javelin and arrows - his left hand holding the horse.

A speciality seen on this Vedu Pari evening was the performance of Kona Vaiyali inside the temple in the Manal Veli (Sand Bank) on the Eastern side of the temple. On other occasions, Kona Vaiyali is seen outside the temple during street processions.

Two fast up and down ‘straight runs’ of about 100meters was followed by a 20meter dash sideways, a circling of Lord Namperumal and another run sideways. This was repeated thrice. At the end of this acrobatic display, Namperumal seemed to be smiling and showering his blessings on the devotees who had gathered in several hundreds.

Enactment of Vedu Pari

Having just witnessed the Kona Vaiyali and appreciated with a loud round of applause, the devotees were taken aback by a sudden commotion on the Northern side as they watched several young lads running onto the Manal Veli with long sticks.

It was the people from the ‘Kallar’ community, who currently reside on the banks of the Melur Road Theppakulam, who had come there to enact the Vedu Pari event – that of way laying Lord Namperumal at the Manal Veli and trying to take away his possessions. At the end of this enactment, every member of the Kallar community was accorded special honours and darshan of Lord Namperumal.

Thirumangai, who earlier in the evening walked in as the king (Mannan) with a bow and arrow in hand, was seen in a completely different form at the end of the Vedu Pari, dressed as Azhvaar, who had just received the initiation of the Ashtachar Mandhiram.

List of Jewels read out

Following the enactment of Vedu Pari, the entire list of jewels of Lord Namperumal was read out to confirm that all the jewels of the Lord were intact. It is an opportunity for the devotees to listen in to the different kinds of jewels worn by the Lord. This is the only day in the year when the list of jewels is read out.

Araiyar Sevai

Beginning 10.15pm, five Araiyars presented the Thiruvoimozhi pasurams for about one and a half hours at the 1000 Pillar mandapam. Through their Abhinayam and Vyakyanam of ‘நெடுமாற்கு அடிமை செயவேன்போல் அவனைக் கருத……… விடுமாறு என்பது என், அந்தோ வியன் மூவுலகு பெரினுமோ’, the Araiyars delivered an important message that just being united with and serving the devotees of the Lord is a bigger service than even ruling the three worlds.

Veena Ekantham at 1am

Well past 1am and having been out for almost 9hours providing special darshan to the devotees at the Manal Veli and later at the 1000 pillar mandapam, it was time for Namperumal to return to his sanctum for a good night’s sleep. The events of this annual Vedu Pari Utsavam came to an end with Veena Ekantham, a unique and one of a kind Veena presentation. Srirangam is the only Divya Desam where this Yaazh Isai tradition is followed.

After a very noisy evening, Namperumal listened in peace for almost an hour, in pin drop silence (quite a rare occurrence at the Srirangam temple), to the sweet tunes of the four member Sathya Kootam Veena Vidwans (Srinivasan, Ramanujam, Govindan and Gopalakrishnan) and their presentation of Thirumangai Azhvaar’s pasurams.

(During the 10 day Era Pathu festival, they present Yaazh Isai for about an hour every evening. Interestingly, while the daily morning and evening recitals are solo performances presented in a sitting posture, Veenai Ekantham during the Era Pathu Thiruvoimozhi festival is presented in a group in a standing posture with the Veena tied to their shoulder. In all, they present around 250 pasurams during this Tamil Prabandham festival)

One could almost visualise the Lord nodding in happiness when they presented
'வாடினேன் வாடி வருந்தினேன் மனத்தால் …நாராயணா என்னும் நாமம்‘ - the first song of Thirumangai Azhvaar after he identified the disguised Lord Ranganatha during the Vedu Pari (Thirumangai in this Pasuram expresses his wilting mind and wavering thoughts and how he finally found that chanting the Narayana Mantra gives one the peace of mind in life).

Their final song on the Vedu Pari night – ‘எத் சரிக சதனம்பு ஏகாந்த ரங்கா’ (Vijaya Ranga Sokka Nathar’s composition) put Namperumal to sleep after a long and tiring evening with the Lord entering his sanctum at around 2am.

Vedu Pari Utsavam took place on 4th January 2010.