Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cricket Lessons from 1978

My thoughts after today’s loss were drawn to some of the comments the famous cricket journalist and Radio commentator Dicky Rutnagar made 23years ago as he summed up India’s disastrous 1976-77 series loss at home against Tony Grieg’s MCC ( England).

He had then pointed to the poor domestic system where there was so much emphasis on first innings points that teams focused on draw than a win. Look at table topper Tamil Nadu’s performance this season in the league and you would know what Dicky meant all those years ago.

Teams must be provided the incentive to win four day games and that rewards should be less for draws (first innings points). To this day, rewards continue to be high for minor achievements (first innings lead).

It may be relevant to point out here that having already qualified for the knock out, Tamil Nadu think tank chose to bat a 2nd time in its match against Madhya Pradesh ( who had also qualified) last week and opted for batting practice on the pretext that the TN bowlers needed rest.

TN bowling unit for the match comprising of Yo Mahesh (who has possibly had his best season to date), Malolan Rangarajan, Rahil Shah and J. Kaushik (the last three in their first season of Ranji) in addition to its captain L. Balaji (who is just making a full season comeback) should have been raring to go a 2nd time to further build their confidence for the knock out matches. Instead, they wanted rest from bowling another 20overs each in the 2nd innings. And this team has been yearning to win the Ranji Trophy for the last many years!!!

On four occasions this season, Tamil Nadu stood a chance to win outright and yet they ended the league phase with just one win.

Good Fast Pitches
But more importantly, Dicky had said then that ‘Good pitches are the very essence of cricket’ (no brainer you would think!!). He suggested in 1978 that domestic Ranji and Duleep Trophy matches should be played on good, fast wickets with high points for outright wins and the very minimal for a draw. He had made a very important point then that should have just sat up begging to be immediately implemented. 2½ decades later, we still have ‘batting’ pitches across the country.

Playing on docile pitches in India and making runs by the hundreds does not augur well for a country that wants to be on top of the world in Test Cricket. You need to be tested domestically in the most difficult of conditions so you are prepared when you face tough situations internationally.

( Typical score in a TNCA first division league this year read: Team X 650/4 draws with Team Y 500/5. And the reasoning for docile pitches being that there are far too many matches for the groundsmen to have time to work on the pitch)
Clearly, India (and for that matter Australia as well) was found wanting at the MCG. An over dose of one day and T20cricket has meant that there is very minimal footwork these days - an indication of this was the number of catches behind the wicket and the ‘played-ons’ during the first test. The feet aren’t just moving forward alongside the bat!!! Once upon a time, the most heard phrase on the commentary was ‘bat and pad close together’. You rarely see that these days.

Administration of Cricket
Dicky Rutnagar was also of the view that the game needed an altruistic, imaginative and knowledgeable administration formed from a younger set of men who have just finished playing the game at the highest level and who are well versed with the modern game. AT that time, names that came to his mind included MAK Pataudi, ML Jaisimha and Hanumant Singh. Two and a half decades later, we continue to ask that same question. Administrators continue to be politicians or corporate bigwigs. The one or two occasions when there has been talk of past cricketers taking up administrative positions, it has been surrounded by controversies centering around 'Conflict of Interest'.

He spoke of reconstruction of Indian cricket after that heart breaking crushing in the five test series by a non - too fancied English side.

We may as well talk that language once again after today’s crushing defeat at the MCG. The Indian team may need a reconstruction with a long term vision built around Test Cricket and not hype T20 and One day victories.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

M. Vijay back in runs in the Ranji Trophy

Earlier this year, for the first time ever, two openers from Tamil Nadu opened for India. M. Abhinav went on to play the test series in England while for M. Vijay, who opened alongside Abhinav in West Indies, it has been downhill since then. Having missed the England tour, he would have hoped to make his claims for an India recall with a strong performance in the domestic tournament alongside his India partner Abhinav.

But while Abhinav has smashed his way back into the reckoning with over 600runs in just 5matches- (one match was washed out) including two double hundreds, M. Vijay has been struggling for runs except for two rapid second innings performances. In fact, he has been the odd man out for TN in the top order with most of the others getting a decent hit in the first half of the season with Badrinath, Karthik and Vasudeva Das scoring a century each.

The worrying sign has been that he has not even stayed for a reasonable length of time in the middle having got out pretty early in most of the knocks. In the two 2nd innings bursts, he scored 40odd batting in the middle order when TN came close to chasing 140 in 13overs and in the last match he put a 100run partnership in 14overs with Abhinav on the final evening against Gujarat.

Finally, on a grassy pitch at Chepauk in the final league encounter of the season and with pressure on him to perform ahead of the knock out stage, Vijay put his head down and came good on the first morning showing he has a classy touch to his game.

Playing some sweet strokes including his trade mark cover drives and delectable late cuts ( at least three of them stood out) against a pretty fired up MP new ball attack and running hard between the wickets picking several twos (not necessarily a trade mark with TN batsmen in the past) in the first session of play, he raced to 70 by lunch. There were very few across the line strokes, not too many wristy flicks to the leg and one also did not find him playing wide of mid on as he so often has tended to do in the recent past.

It was particularly pleasing to find Vijay letting many balls go to the keeper, another indication that he was determined to get some runs and not be totally left behind by Abhinav for the contention for the reserve opener’s slot in the Indian team (which any way currently is with Rahane).

This was the kind of commitment one would have expected from Vijay right from the start of the season after having come back from a poor series in West Indies and given that Tamil Nadu has been going for the big one- the Ranji Trophy- that has been elusive for a long time now.

This knock of Vijay will give him a lot of confidence and will mean that Tamil Nadu will go into the knock out phase with both the openers ‘amongst runs’.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Vasudevan - Hats off to you!!

I was returning to Chennai by Pallavan Express on 7th December (last Wednesday) after a trip to Srirangam for Kaisika Ekadesi. I got down at Mambalam and boarded a crowded 12G bus at 12.30pm. 10minutes later, I was shocked (and could not believe my eyes) to find the 1988Ranji Trophy winning captain S. Vasudevan getting on to the crowded bus at the SIET signal and making a bus trip standing a few yards in front of me. He did not see me and I let it be. I wondered as to what the Ranji Captain of Tamil Nadu was up to going by a local MTC bus and standing, at that.

Only a few days earlier, I had read the interview of Sunil Subramaniam in The Hindu and his comments about Vasudevan being a simple man.


What better example to signify that comment of Sunil than Tamil Nadu’s former Ranji captain taking a crowded bus, standing without anyone noticing him and quietly getting down a few stops later and carrying on with his work. And this just a week after I had written about Abhinav and his lifestyle interview (Sorry Abhinav to pull you in again).

Current crop of players are proud to display their gadgets at the drop of a hat.

Former greats like Vasudevan lead a simple life, almost unnoticed, despite significant achievements over a long period of time in the cricketing arena (every time you bring their achievements to a discussion, they almost shy away asking what this fuss is all about). That’s the yesteryear greats for you.

Vasudevan has been at the Mylapore Club almost every day for the last many months with very few realising that here was a Ranji Trophy captain - one who had taken over 200wickets partnering a large part of the late 70s - mid 80s with Venkataraghavan as TN’s spin twin of that decade standing a few yards away from them.

Hundreds of kids who come to the VB Academy (and then eat pizzas at the club canteen!!!) pass by him day in day out with almost none recognising the legendary TN Captain and left arm spinner.

Since they do not know his greatness, what point in me asking the question ‘what a great opportunity they are missing of taking advise from him not just on cricket and bowling but also on values of life and building strong character. For did Vasudevan not make way for Sunil Subramaniam in the TN side a year after he had lifted the Ranji Trophy with a tremendous personal performance that year so the then promising Sunil could blossom.

Co- incidentally, exactly a week earlier to this Vasudevan incident, I was witness to S. Venkataraghavan standing by the road side on RK Salai near the USIS under the shade of a tree as I made my way from the Gemini Fly over. After having crossed him, a thought struck me if I should check if he needed any help. And in his characteristic style and without any fuss at all, he asked me to carry on!!!

Former Ranji Captain, at 56, takes a bus home and a cricketer in his first year for India is already talking about the fancy car he drives!!!

And earlier this evening, as I watched Vasudevan share his cricketing insights with a 11year old (who I was talking to as Vasudevan walked in) at the VB academy, I wondered if that kid understood that this was probably his best moment to-date in cricket- that of a TN cricketing great walking up to him on his own and providing him with invaluable cricketing and life inputs.

Those few minutes that Vasudevan spent with this 11year old would easily have been a great learning for anyone who listened to him!!! Vasudevan asked him about his stance ( and immediately spotted an error!!!), his cricketing ambitions and what made him come thrice a week to practice cricket and where he wanted to go, his studies and the marks he got there in his class 7 exams, his school and the cricket team, his highest score to date, his daily schedule as a cricketer and what he was learning every day as a cricketer which I am sure the academy he is at would not even thought of as a relevant subject to dwell into!!!

Are these not questions that VB should be asking every kid who wants to sign up at the academy!! or at least the parents should be asking themselves and the kid. I almost felt sorry for Vasudevan for the kid's mother stood there at the Mylapore Club gate listening to these insightful comments from the great but not being to grasp the finer points of what he was trying to make and not knowing that her son had just had the moment of his life one that he should be going to school tomorrow and boasting about- he had just got Free Cricketing and Life lessons from Tamil Nadu's former Ranji Captain, the kind of time that coaches normally monetise!!!

Vasudevan summed it up all to the kid in a single sentence – Cricket is an Education and provides Life Learning opportunities just as you learn different subjects at School. ‘Very few realise that’ he told the kid and walked away after wishing the kid well.

VB Academy would do well to utilise the services of Vasudevan as a guide for the students at least once in a while, if not on a regular basis. Let alone cricket, these young 10year olds would learn 'Lessons of Life' from Vasudevan.

Is VB listening or has his focus completely turned to Cricket Commentary!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tri Murthy Utsavam in Uthamar Koil

Brahmma,Vishnu and Shiva present a joint darshan on the occassion of Thiru Karthigai

In a festival to celebrate the presence of the ‘Tri Murthies’ in a single Divya Desam, one witnessed this evening (Dec 9), on the occasion of Thiru Karthigai, Brahmma, Shiva and Vishnu coming out together on a procession providing a joint darshan for almost an hour to devotees around the four Mada Streets of Uthamar Koil in Thiru Karambanur on the Northern banks of Coloroon near Srirangam, the only such combined display of the Tri Murthies at a Divya Desam.

The Story

Once upon a time, both Shiva and Brahmma had 5 heads. Parvati (Shiva’s wife) once mistook Brahmma (because of his 5 heads) for her husband and began serving him by washing his legs.

Reasoning that this confusion arose because Brahmma too had five heads, Shiva, in a fit of rage, took off the middle head of Brahmma with his hand. Unfortunately for Shiva, the fifth head of Brahmma stuck to his hand. To find salvation from the curse, Shiva went on a pilgrimage begging for food, with Brahmma’s skull as the begging vessel. However, much to Shiva’s horror, every time someone filled the vessel with food, it vanished immediately.

Finally, it was here at Uthamar Koil that Goddess Lakshmi herself filled the vessel with food thus ending Shiva’s hunger. But with the skull still stuck on his hand, Shiva undertook prayers here at Uthamar Koil and as directed by Vishnu later went to Kandiyur (a Divya Desam near Thiruvayaru), where he was finally provided salvation from his curse by Lord Kamalanathan. As Shiva came to Uthamar Koil with a begging bowl searching for liberation from a curse, this place is called Pichandar (Bikshandar) Koil. Shiva is seen here as ‘Bikshandar Murthy’. A unique feature at this Divya Desam is that Lord Brahmma is seen facing South.

Blend of Vaishnavism and Saivism

At Uthamar Koil, one is a witness to the blending of Vaishnavism and Saivism. While as per Vaishnavism legend, Shiva came as a beggar to get liberated from his curse, as per the Saivaite belief, Shiva was born here as a beggar to get rid of the arrogance of the rishis (Shiva has 63 avatars).

Thiru Mangai’s Ultimate Praise

At many a Divya Desam, Thiru Mangai Azhwar has showered several verses of praise, referring to the location, describing the Lord, referring to his postures and comparing him with Lords he has seen elsewhere.

However, there are temples where he has made a reference only in passing. Thiru Karambanur Divya Desam near Srirangam is one such temple where he makes only a passing mention. But the lack of verses (quantity) is made up by the quality of reference.

“Peraanai, Kurugkudiyum Perumaanai, Thiruthankal Ooraanai, Karamabanur Uthamana…”

Thiru Mangai Azhwar has showered the Karambanur Lord with the ultimate praise referring to him as Uthamar, the perfect Lord. This is the only Divya Desam out of over 85 that Thiru Mangai has sung praise of where he has referred to the Lord as 'Uthamar'. Thus, with just one word, he positioned the Karambanur Lord as the Ultimate one to visit for us to see the 'Perfect One'. With Thirumangai referring to the Lord as ‘Uthamar’, the temple itself has come to be called ‘Uthamar Koil’.

Prarthana Sthala

Belief is that childless couple who pray here with sincerity will be blessed with children. Dasharatha himself performed a yagna here before Rama was born. Legend has it that Vishnu ordered Brahmma not to refuse anything to devotees who come here to pray to him.

Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam comes here once a year crossing the Coloroon
Purshottam Perumal’s Chariot Utsavam in Chitrai
Lord Shiva’s Chariot Utsavam in Vaikasi

Kaisika Ekadesi 2011 in Srirangam

Parasara Bhattar took the story of a complex Kaisika Purana (in Sanskrit), dissected it and composed and created the Vyakyaana in a simple and easily understandable language, which was hitherto non-existent. He made it more interesting by analysing the different Avataras of Lord Vishnu and showcasing Varaha Avatara as the best and the purest, despite the Lord taking the form of a pig. Kaisika Purana is a part of Varaha Puraana and comprises several hundred songs- all in small stanzas- showing Lord Narayana as the ultimate supreme force

The Story of Kaisika Purana
Kaisika Purana is the story of Nambaduvan, a low caste person and his love for the Lord Nambi of Thiru Kurungudi. Nambaduvan was a ‘Jaagrutha Vrathan’, one who came out when all others were sleeping. Embarrassed to enter the temple during the day, he would walk several miles every night and stand outside the Thiru Kurungudi temple and sing praise of Lord Nambi.

On the Kaisika Ekadesi night, Nambaduvan made 18 promises to a Brahmma Raakshash who wanted to consume him while he was making his daily night trip to sing praise of Lord Nambi, requesting the Rakshash to allow him to visit the Nambi temple one last time.

In the 18th promise, which is the essence of the Kaisika Purana and the reason why Kaisika Ekadesi and Kaisika Purana are most important to a Vaishnavite, Nambaaduvan says “If one ever tries equating Lord Narayana 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 the cycle of births.”

Through these 18 promises narrated in the Kaisika Purana, we are made aware 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.

Nambaduvan made his way back as promised to the hungry Rakshasha after singing praise of Lord Nambi. His philosophy was that he would rather give up his life than going back on a promise even if it meant that he would be prey of the Rakshash. Stunned at the sincerity of Nambaduvan, Brahmma Rakshash requested him to share the Kaisika Ekadesi night’s praise of Lord Nambi so the Rakshash could be relieved of his previous birth’s curse and secure Vaikunta Moksham.

Namperumal’s procession to Arjuna Mandapa

This Tuesday (6 December) evening, on the occasion of Kaisika Ekadesi Celebrations at the Lord Ranganatha Swamy temple in Srirangam, a beautifully decorated Namperumal, the utsava deity, came out on a palanquin at 830pm on his second procession of the day, having made one earlier in the morning. Making his way through the Kili Mandapa, he positioned himself at Arjuna Mandapa.

365dresses for Namperumal
To start the celebration, 365 dresses were draped around NamPerumal (one for each day of the year) to make up for not giving him enough new dresses throughout the year.

Araiyar’s Periya Thirumozhi and Thiruvoimozhi presentation

Beginning 10pm for almost two hours, Namperumal, along with several hundreds of his devotees, watched Six Araiyars of Srirangam led by Araiyar Ramanujacharya and Araiyar Sampath Kumar present 20verses in praise of Thirukurungudi Nambi from the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham including Vyakyanam and Abhinaya of Thirumangai Azhwar’s Periya Thirumozhi verse Akkum Puliyin and NamAzhwar’s Thiruvoimozhi verse Enganeyo Annaimeerkal through their song and dance enactment. While one Araiyar narrated a verse, another explained its meaning and one other Araiyar enacted the story through the Abhinaya, a unique art/dance performance with their hands and legs.

Throughout his passionate presentation, Araiyar Sampath Kumar had tears rolling down as he sung praise of Lord Nambi of Thiru Kurungudi.

Kaisika Purana Recital and Vaikunta Moksham

Following the Araiyar Sevai and well after mid night, 62 year Parasara Rangaraja Bhattar standing in front of Namperumal at the Arjuna Mandapa presented a non-stop two hour recital without any pause. His presentation of over a 100 verses from the Kaisika Purana with his brother Parasara Azhagiya Singa Bhatter holding the Kaisika Purana scriptures in his hand, through a narration of the entire discussion that panned out between Nambaduvan and Brahmma Rakshash brought out the significance of this simple yet great composition and why it is relevant even today, thousand years after it was composed.

It is believed that anyone who recites/reads or listens to the Kaisika Purana will get Vaikunta Moksham in this birth just in the way Brahmma Rakshasha secured listening to Nambaduvan’s verses.

Karpoora Padi Etra Seva
After a long and eventful night, NamPerumal was allowed only a couple of hours of rest as he was woken up at 5am on Kaisika Dwadasi (Wednesday) morning for his alankara. Having spent over 8hours at the Arjuna Mandapa providing night long darshan to his devotees, Namperumal started on his return trip at 5.15am with two Araiyars leading him all the way to the Santanu Mandapa.

As a thanking gesture for having stayed up late into the night watching the enactment of the Kaisika Ekadesi celebrations, Namperumal was showered with camphor powder, as he made his entry up the steps into the Santanu Mandapa, an event that spread a special fragrance around Him. This special seva is referred to as ‘Karpoora Padi Etra Seva’. With this, Namperumal made his way back to his abode at 545am bringing to end the Kaisika Ekadesi Celebrations.

Historical Event at Srirangam
The Telugu ruler Vijayaranga Sokka Nathan was eager to witness the Kaisika Ekadesi Celebrations in Srirangam, especially this morning event of ‘Karpoora Padi Etra Seva’ (showering of camphor powder). Unfortunately, when he reached the temple with his family, the Lord had already entered the Santanu Mandapa. Having come from far just to witness this event, the king requested the Lord to provide a replay as he could not go back without being part of the event. However, the Lord refused to accept this request stating that he was always on time and does not wait for anyone.

NamPerumal asked the king to be back on the same day next year. But so upset was the king that he decided to stay put outside the Sannidhi for one more year. In memory of this event and to mark the King Vijaya Ranga Sokka Nathan’s unflinching devotion, the idol of the king along with his family can be seen even today outside the Sannidhi on the Western side.

( A version of this story featured today in The Hindu Friday Review)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Peter Roebuck- A fortnight after!!

'Alas, the dismayed will continue to take their lives for it is all more fragile than it appears' - PETER ROEBUCK IN 2004

The normal pressures (and pleasures) of life may in fact have, after all, taken the toll on Peter Roebuck

In the character assessment of Peter Roebuck, his father had said ‘His prickly response to challenge is promoted by a personality that is tough and austere and responsive neither to bribe nor threats. Since he does not seek reward or bother to avoid punishment the normal pressures of life do not affect him. Accordingly he can strike as hard and often as he wants without fear since he is beyond the range of normal weaponry.'

Peter obviously liked this assessment and he may have found this the most apt description of what he stood for, for him to have included this as the last piece in his autobiography.

Over the last fortnight, a large percentage of the media (and they have been accused of having played a silent role in his life outside of cricket) have chosen to stick to his cricketing skills ignoring what his other side may have been, though almost everyone have slated him as a complex person and as one who did not necessarily disclose his personal side of life and his preferences.

The few that have taken the contrary view have gone the other extreme of bringing out the darker not too pleasant side of Peter Roebuck and almost positioning him as a criminal.

A read through of the chapter on Trial and Tribulation in his autobiography throws up a few questions, answers to which, in hindsight, would have helped clarify some of the doubts that may still linger in the minds of many.

1. A young man (whose mother had earlier asked Peter Roebuck to assist her son and he had not come back to her as promised) committed suicide by gassing himself at 3am. He says he took a vow that day never to go half way.
2. He says that ‘K’ along with a few other visitors played for a club run by Botham’s closest friend. If Peter never wanted to talk to Botham again after the late 1980s, why would he have wanted/allowed his wards to play for a Botham (related) team?
3. He says he gave an unfit boy a few whacks with a stick ( and he was not embarrassed to write ‘from a bunch of sticks’) for not having been able to run in the snow ( the contention is that he got a written consent from them to get whacked).
4. In another case, he talks about a hysterical girl and a likeable boyfriend arguing loudly long into the night…He says that it never occurred to him that his treatment of their cousin was the topic of the conversation- A loud argument in his house late into the night and he leads us to believe that he did not venture to check what it was about
5. Even more surprising is the point where he says he suddenly woke up at 3am the next morning as it struck him that the bedrooms were not tidier and that the other inmates may have left. Yes they had left him and the house was empty
6. In the next episode, he says that one of his students (who wanted to return to him) had left him to stay with Botham’s 2nd closest friend in town for the ‘time being’.
7. He says he had never run away from anything or anyone and adds ‘ least of all youngsters who had run up huge phone bills by calling sex lines’- If he was the strict disciplinarian who wanted his wards to succeed or perish, why did he allow them to make sex calls from his phone lines!!!
8. He had graduated in Law and also had great proficiency in the ‘Language’ ( English) that almost every story over the past fortnight has credited him with…however he says he let pass an answer ( in the Interpol questioning) he gave as ‘yes’ that was recorded as ‘yeah’ without raising that as an issue, though he later acknowledges that as a mistake.
9. He talks about some of those complainants being back in Taunton and about one of them being bitter about the campaign against him (Peter Roebuck). He also talks about a Somerset player urging one of his students to lodge a complaint against him. He does not name either of them.
10. He says most former students had refused to answer questions from the Interpol. Why did they refuse to answer questions on Peter Roebuck if he was almost a father figure to them. Again, in hindsight,he says that may have been a mistake ( for them not to answer any questions)
11. In another reference, he says his house was an alternative to the feebleness of the prevailing youth culture.
12. After he was charged, he says he did not read the complaints and that now and then he did try to read them but always felt ill after a few paragraphs. And says ‘isolated’ incidents were blown out of all proportion, without giving us an indication as to what those incidents were.
13. He says he agreed to the deal to plead guilty to the lowest form of guilt because he was tired and wanted to see his orphans in Zimbabwe while at the same time saying that he did not grasp that pleading guilty meant accepting everything in the statements made by the complainants
14. On the judgement, he says, ‘ I did not care anymore, wanting the thing to end and life to resume.’ In another context, he says ' Mistakes have been made and one or two people have been hurt, but I like to think ' the good has outweighed the bad'.

He sums up saying ‘as a private person, it was the intrusion I hated most of all.’ And that he stood by his overall record with young people.

His tail piece in his book : ' With a bit of luck I will continue writing about the game and broadcasting for the ABC for another 20years.'Unfortunately, it seemed he had only a bit of the ' bit of luck' that he was looking.

But what saddened me the most in his death was that, in the moment of truth, it seemed that his father’s assessment of Peter Roebuck, did not seem to stand the test of time - ‘His prickly response to challenge is promoted by a personality that is tough and austere and responsive neither to bribe nor threats. Since he does not seek reward or bother to avoid punishment, the normal pressures of life do not affect him.’

Peter Roebuck once said 'Alas, the dismayed will continue to take their lives for it is all more fragile than it appears'. Years after that comment, it seemed to take his own and showed he may have been lot more fragile than he appeared to the world at large.

Finally, the normal pressures ( and pleasures) of life may have,after all, taken the toll on Peter Roebuck though I would like to sincerely hope not.

Abhinav Mukund- Focus on Cricket not life style media interviews

Abhinav Mukund seemed a little out of place in that Metro Plus interview in The Hindu earlier this month, though I am sure he would have had hundreds of 'FANS' praising him on his front page cover piece.

While we were earlier accustomed to Abhinav talking about his penchant for the Lara like cover drive or his cut and pull, we were out here reading his interest in cars and tech gadgets and how he has had to miss birthdays, begging the question if fame had already got the better of him and if he too was falling into the 'Glorious Trap' that many promising young Indian cricketers over the years had become prey to.

There is no doubt that Abhinav has worked hard every single week over the last 15years and his Test call earlier this year was a well deserved one for all the efforts he had put in and yes for all the birthday sacrifices he had made.

To accept The Hindu Metro Plus Life Style interview (however hard the journalist may have pushed him) was poor media management on Abhinav’s part.

In just his first year of International cricket ( and he has already failed to retain his place in the Indian squad having now been left out of the tour to Australia), Abhinav would do well to focus on his game rather than giving fashion and life style interviews to the media that showcases his non cricketing side and how that side of his life is charging his cricketing energy.

In the interview, Abhinav says, ‘Travelling for cricket, I have celebrated my birthday away from home many a time.’ I thought folks here in Madras went to the temple on their birthdays though it seems from this interview that not celebrating birthday with the family is a sacrifice for a cricketer whose aim it was to play for India and that he has now reconciled himself to not being able to celebrate birthdays with his family.

Unlike in the past, say two decades ago when players played cricket for passion (I made my league debut batting alongside a person who was 70years old at that time and where each cricketer brought lunch from home for the league matches!!!), cricketers these days have turned professional and are paid huge sums of money even before they have turned 25!!!

So to make a point about ‘Celebrating birthdays away from home’ and positioning it like a big sacrifice is a kind of comment that Abhinav would do well to avoid. When did celebration of a birthday with family become bigger than wanting to play for India? Why is Abhinav even getting into such topics in a media interview (His typical response would be that he was just answering a question from a journalist!!!)

There is also the point about ‘no memories of hanging out’.

We haven’t heard of stories of Dravids and Laxmans and Tendulkars hanging out during their college days. So Abhinav, what’s the big deal of not having memories of hanging out with college mates. Playing for India is much better than hanging out at Shanthi Vihar!!!

If this was not enough, there were more shocks to come in the interview. Abhinav goes on to talk about his Playstation 3, thriller-novels, addiction to films and his fascination for gadgets.

How nice it would have been for us to hear how he is sharpening his technique to not be inner edging or playing away from body and leaving bat pad gaps often enough as we saw him in England rather than knowing how frequently and at what speed he zips down ECR or what car does he have now.

Many years ago I heard him say watching Brian Lara on Video charged him and motivated him. Today driving alone on his Honda Jazz on the ECR charges him!!! What a change.

But what was the ultimate shocker was the way he signed off in the interview suggesting that he loves the attention that his cricketing achievements have given him.

If playing 6tests in a year and then being discarded can lead him to comments like ‘it will be a blatant lie if I said I didn’t like the attention’, how will he be when he scores his 25th test ton.

Abhinav, its time you got back to focusing on your cricket. It would be good if you stayed far away from Life Style interviews to media. Let the bat do the talking for you like it did when you scored that double hundred a couple of weeks back at Chepauk to get TN the crucial first innings lead against Amit Mishra's Haryana.

We want to know how hard you are working on your technique.

We are more interested in your appetite for runs rather than the cars and tech gadgets you own!!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Peter Roebuck- My favourite Cricket Expert Commentator

My first meeting with Peter Roebuck was in the 3rd test between India and Australia at Chepauk in Madras in 2001 when I spent two sessions with him at the ABC Commentary box. That day, after having heard him over the Radio for a decade, I listened LIVE to Peter sitting right behind him at the commentary box. I told him that he was the best modern day ‘expert’ commentator on the Radio.

(Photo above was taken by me that day... Jim Maxwell, who brought him into Radio Australia is to his left. And Mike Coward, who has this morning rated Peter Roebuck as the best ever commentator of this generation, is to his right. Harsha Bhogle who was also part of that ABC team, Glenn Mitchell, Greg Mathews and our own scorer- Mani- are also seen in the photograph)

So modest was Peter(Roebuck) that morning that he almost shut me up in that ABC box and asked me to keep it to myself and not propagate these views!!!

The first time I had listened to Peter Roebuck was in 1987 when he summed Australia’s 1987 world cup victory.

This is how he began describing AB’s victory in 1987:

“Calcutta, the former Indian capital with 12million citizens including Mother Teresa and some of the worst poverty imaginable, darted up its Eden Garden Stadium for the cricket final. 90000 Indian cricket lovers packed the ground, despite the fact that the tournament’s co- hosts, India and Pakistan - were not present……….. When asked what he would do with the prize money, Allan Border said ‘We are going to have a good time.”

Since then, for well over a decade I rarely missed his stint on Radio Australia.

Two things stand out in my memory of listening to him on the radio:

One, his strategic description of the poor captaincy of Graham Gooch during the 1992 World Cup final when Gooch released the pressure the Pakistanis were under by pushing the field back right after the first drinks break.

The other was during the 1988 Perth test match against West Indies when Tim Lane, the Radio Australia commentator was LIVE after the fall of the 9th Australian wicket ‘Ambrose will not be able to beat his previous best test haul now (Ambrose’ previous best had been 6 for 72 or some such thing and he had in this particular innings just conceded 73runs at that time for his 6wickets)…

Peter Roebuck immediately retorted that stunned Tim Lane “Not necessarily Tim. Ambrose could claim the final wicket and still achieve his best Test figures (by claiming 7 wickets in that innings).”

That was how 'spot on' he was on the game.

I read, several times, the story of his experience with the UK police on the supposed assault on his students. He thankfully got out of that after an almost two year horror phase.

But this time, it all ended in a matter of minutes, though one wonders how some one who seemed quite strong willed would take such an immediate decision. And that, in the middle of an absorbing 'Test' battle that he so often over the last one year criticised for its short series ( He was aghast at ICC planning this as just a two test series and made his displeasure known, as always, in no uncertain terms)

His suddent demise is a great loss to the radio (and to cricket readers). Just on the night of his death ( Saturday night), I was reading his description of Michael Atherton's career and the final time Athers walked on to the field.

Thanks to the collection I have of many of Peter’s gems (stints) for Radio Australia, dating back to the early 1990s, I can hopefully continue to listen to those recorded commentaries of his, though his LIVE broadcasts on the ABC will be missed as will be his reports in The Hindu.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mudhal Azhvaar Utsavam Thiru Kovilur

In celebration of the contribution of the first three Azhvaars to the creation of Divya Prabhandham verses at Thiru Kovilur, a five day Mudhal Azhvaar Utsavam took place here last week.

On the final morning of the Utsavam on the occasion of Pey Azhvaar’s birthday (Saturday November 5), the three Azhvaars were provided special - once in a year- honours by Ulagalandha Perumal. Each of them accepted the Lord’s garland and the Parivattam (sacred turban linen) of the Lord.

This was followed by the loud recital of the very first set of verses of the Divya Prabandham composed by the three Azhvaars.

After special Thirumanjana of the Mudhal Azhvaars at the Pandya Mandapa, a beautifully decorated Ulagalanda Perumal came out on a Sesha Vahana accompanied by the three Azhvaars to provide darshan to the devotees (With heavy rains in the evening, Ulagalanda Perumal and the three Azhvaars stayed within the temple complex and did not go around the four Mada Streets as was the plan).

Contribution of Mudhal Azhvaars

‘ThiruKanden Ponmeni Kanden’ is how an excited Pey Azhvaar described the moment of his happiness after darshan of Ulagalandha Perumal on one dark stormy night here in Aippasi at Mrugandu Rishi’s Ashram in Thiru Kovilur.

The story goes that the first three of the Azhvaars- Poigai Azhvaar, Bhoothath Azhvaar and Pey Azhvaar (referred to as Mudhal Azhvaars) - came to Thiru Kovilur on that rainy night. Poigai Azhvaar of Kanchipuram who reached first, sought refuge for the night at the ashram of Mrugandu Rishi who agreed to allow him in on the condition that there was place for just one person to sleep and that he was welcome to sleep there for the night.

Bhoothath Azhvaar, from Thiru Kadal Mallai (Mahabalipuram), followed shortly. He was welcomed with the message that there is place for one to sleep and two to sit and brought him inside.

PeyAzhvaar, from Thiru Mayilai (Mylapore), who was the last to reach the ashram, was told that there is place for one to sleep, two to sit and three to stand. The three of them stood there through the night sharing their experiences.

A little later, Mudhal Azhvaars felt the presence of a fourth person and with space only for three to stand, they felt uncomfortable. Through their special vision, they realised that this was Ulagalantha Perumal of Thiru Kovilur.

Delighted at seeing the Lord, Poigai Azhvaar sang 100verses (Mudhal Thiruvanthathi) beginning with ‘Vaiyan Thagaliya Vaarkadaley” referring to the Universe as the lamp and the Ocean as the oil, Bhoothath Azhvaar followed this with 100 verses beginning with ‘Anbey Thagaliye’ (Second Thiruvanthathi) while Pey Azhvaar showered another 100verses (Third Thiruvanthathi) of praise.

Thus, it was here at Thiru Kovilur that the first verses of Divya Prabhandham were composed and hence this place is credited as being the temple of origin of the sacred 4000verses.

The ashram where the three Azhvaars stayed that rainy night is where one today finds the sanctum.

For this special contribution, all the three Azhvaars find a place inside the sanctum next to the gigantic Lord Trivikrama who measures 24 ft in height and is seen in a grand standing posture with his right leg raised 90 degrees to his right.

Vamana Avatara displayed again
Pleased with the prayers of Mrugandu Rishi but wanting to test him more, Lord Vishnu visited his ashram disguised as an old hungry Brahmin. With no food at the ashram, the rishi’s wife sought help from the Lord. Happy with their commitment of not letting go a hungry Brahmin, the Lord filled the vessels with food, much to the surprise of the Rishi. When the happy couple came out to offer food to the Brahmin, they found Lord Vishnu standing there displaying his full form –with conch and chakra. Delighted at this sight, the Rishi requested the Lord to display his Vamana Avatara at this place and to stay put at Thiru Kovilur.

Pancha Krishnaranya Kshetram
Thiru Kovilur is one of the sacred Pancha Krishnaranya Kshetrams, the others being Thiru Kannangudi, Thiru Kannamangai, Thiru Kannapuram and Kapisthalam.

Quick Facts

Deity : Trivikrama (Ulagalandha Perumal) East facing standing posture
Goddess : Poongoval Nachiyar
Utsavar : Dehlisha (Idai Kazhi Aayanar) Perumal
Temple Time : 630am-12noon and 430pm-8pm
Contact : 98407 46422 / 90032 97798

How to reach Thiru Kovilur

Ulagalanda Perumal Divya Desam in Thiru Kovilur is located about 40kms West of Villipuram on the banks of Pennai River. Direct buses ply between Chennai Koyambedu bus terminus and Thiru Kovilur temple (will take 5hours). One can also take a train from Chennai Egmore to Villupuram, from where Thiru Kovilur is about 45minutes by bus.

While the broad gauge conversion from Villupuram to Thiru Vannamalai has been completed, the operation of the rail service has not resumed.

Once this happens, one will be able to go by train to Thiru Kovilur from Chennai

A Part of this story featured today in The Hindu

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Yoga Rama Temple Nedungunam

Rama is seen in a Chin Mudra Posture without his bow Biggest Vishnu temple in the North Arcot and Thiruvannamalai districts of Tamil Nadu 
 Located 24kms South of Vandavasi on the Kanchipuram – Chetput-Thiruvannamalai route at the foot of the Dheergajala Mountain is the over 500years old Yoga Rama temple in Nedungunam where Lord Rama is seen in a unique sitting ‘Chin Mudra’ posture without his bow listening to Hanuman’s Vedic recital. The temple has two big Gopurams at the Eastern entrance- the 105feet Raja Gopuram and the 65feet Kili Gopuram. Inscriptions can be traced to the Raya period and hence the temple can be said to be at least 500years old.Spaced in an almost 90000sq. ft area, this is the biggest Vishnu temple in the North Arcot and Thiruvannamalai districts and also possibly the biggest Rama temple in Tamil Nadu.  

 The story goes that answering the prayers of Rishi Shugar, Rama provided darshan to him and stayed here for a day on his way back to Ayodhya after defeating the Lanka King Ravana.    

Abhimana Perumal 
Rama is the Abhimana Perumal for people belonging to almost 25villages around Nedungunam.

A 16th Century AD inscription reveals that during the rule of Veera Achutha Deva Raya a nearby village was given as donation for the conduct of the festival at the Rama temple. An inscription near the Rajagopuram states there was a grant of land for the perpetual maintenance of the temple activities and poojas. It also has a word of caution. Anyone trying to hinder the conduct of the temple poojas/activities will incur a curse equivalent to killing a cow on the banks of the Ganges.
A 17th Century AD inscription talks about grant of land to provide for the maintenance of a doctor in Nedungunam. On the Southern end of the Kili Rajagopuram, there is a reference to Kuzhambalur Thandavarya Chidambaram ‘Daily Service’, an indication that someone was taking care of the expenses relating to the proper conduct of the daily pooja services at the temple. On a stone culvert on the Southern side of the temple, there is a mention of taxing any new resident to this place during the rule of Vijayanagara King, Venkatapathi Deva Raya.

Festivals 10day Brahmotsavam in Panguni/Chitrai starting on Rama Navami Garuda Sevai on Vaikasi Visakam Aadi Pavitrotsavam Chariot Festival on the 7th day of Brahmotsavam. On the Kaanum Pongal day in Thai, Lord Rama goes on a procession to around 20villages around Nedungunam. 

Quick Facts 
Moolavar : Yoga Rama East Facing Sitting Posture with Sita and Lakshmana by his side 
Thaayar : Shengamala Valli Thaayar
Temple Time: 7am-10am and 6pm-8pm 
Contact : Badri Narayana Bhattar @ 63809 47204 (old number: 94452 15776)

How to reach
Bus Numbers 148, 208 and 422 from Koyambedu bus stand go through Nedungunam By Car from Chennai, one can drive 90kms to Melmaruvathur and then take a right to drive 30kms to Vandavasi. The alternate route is to taka right at Padalam (15kms after Chengalpet on the GST Road) to reach Uthira Merur. From Uthira Merur, one has to drive 25kms south to reach Vandavasi.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vijayadasami Utsavam Kaatazhagiya Singaperumal Srirangam

Namperumal’s hunting scene enacted at the Kaatazhagiya Singar temple on Vijayadasami
Made his way back through the Wholesale Flower Market of Srirangam

Last week, on the Vijayadasami (Oct 6,2011) morning, sharp at 630am, Namperumal, the Utsava processional deity of Lord Ranganathaswamy temple set his sights to the East as he left his abode for his annual one day ‘Vijaya’ (Conquest) trip to the temple of 'Narasimha of the Jungle' - Kaatazhagiya Singaperumal koil, a temple that pre dates the Ranganatha temple.

Passing through the ‘Vellai Gopuram’, Namperumal reached the Srirangam railway station where special wooden boards had been placed across the railway track to assist the Lord cross the Srirangam Station. On reaching the Kaatazhagiya Singaperumal temple, Namperumal stationed himself at the outer Mantapa where a pooja was performed. Later, devotees at the Singar temple had his darshan.

Enactment of hunting SceneIn the evening, cane bows and arrows of cane with brass heads were ceremoniously brought on the Elephant back via the Chitra Streets of Srirangam.

At 5pm, the Golden Horse Vahana that had been brought earlier in the day from the Ranganatha temple, was moved into the Outer Mantapa where Namperumal was being decorated for the evening event.

An hour later, at 6pm, Namperumal mounted on his Golden Horse Vahana and positioned himself at the four pillared Mantapa right in front of the Vanni tree for the much awaited event of the day.

After performing pooja at the Vanni tree, the hunting scene was enacted here in front of thousands of devotees who had gathered at the Singaperumal temple with Nampermal’s representatives striking the arrows in different directions signifying the killing of Vanniyasura, the forest demon and symbolically suggesting the protection of the Good.

After the enactment of this hunting scene and having spent the whole day with the ‘Narasimha of the Jungle’, Namperumal bid good bye to Kaatazhagiya Singaperumal for yet another year and started on his return trip at around 7pm.

Only visit to the Flower Market of Srirangam
Ahead of Namperumal’s return trip, Sathara Street, the wholesale Flower market of Srirangam, was wonderfully decorated with festive lights and flower alankara marking the entire stretch of the market. This is the only day in the year when Namperumal makes his way through the Flower market providing darshan to the flower vendors of Srirangam.

With the clock having ticked past 830pm and having provided darshan for almost an hour at the Southern entrance of the Ranganathaswamy temple, Namperumal made his way back to the Gayathri Mantapa where Thirumanjana was performed along with the Ubhaya Nachiyars bringing to an end his annual hunting expedition to the Singaperumal temple.

Singar Koil
Kaatazhagiya Singaperumal temple is located 100yards East of Srirangam Railway Station. Moolavar Chaturbhuja Narasimha is seen with his two upper hands holding a Conch and Chakra while his lower hand is in an Abhaya posture. Goddess Lakshmi is seen seated on the left thigh of Narasimha and holds buds in both her hands. Interestingly, both the feet of Goddess Lakshmi can be seen at this temple.

Centuries ago, this Kshetram was referred to as Velli Thirumutham. Only much later, after the construction of the Ranganatha temple did this place come to be called Thiruvarangam. The Singaperumal temple was built by Vallabhadeva Pandya and has an imposing Vimana. In the 15th Century AD, Chakra Raya colonised the precincts of the Shrine of Kaatazhagiya Singar and renovated the shrine. The Maha Mantapa at the Singar temple has Vijayanagar style pillars.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Rockfort Express

It would be good to stop the 16177 Rockfort Express at Tiruchirapalli Junction and bring it back to its original historical route

With the launch this week of a new train- The Mannai Express to Mannargudi- passing through both Kumbakonam and Thanjavur, it may finally be time to get RockFort Express to its old route – Chennai Egmore –Tiruchirapalli Junction Express.

In the early part of last decade, with the closure of the Chennai Egmore Villupuram Mayavaram- Kumbakonam Main line for the conversion to broad gauge and the subsequent early conversion of the Tiruchirapalli- Kumbakonam 90km route, the Rockfort Express was extended beyond Tiruchirapalli to Kumbakonam.

However, now with the train services having resumed on the Villupuram-Mayiladuthurai section and with at least 3 daily express night trains on this section in addition to weekly specials and the Chozhan day express, it will be good to stop Rockfort express at Tiruchirapalli thus providing several hundreds of additional berths/seats to Trichy bound travellers.

While this issue was raised in the past, no decision was taken. However, with Mannai Express and Tiruchendur Express running on the Mayavaram-Kumbakonam-Thanjavur main line, it will benefit the passengers to get the additional seats to Trichy on the Rockfort Express.

Singiri Kudi Narasimha Temple

Sage Vashista was liberated from his curse at this place
Prahalada had darshan here of Lakshmi Narasimha after having visited Devanathan at Thiru Vahindrapuram

Located 2kms West of Thavalai Kuppam off the Pondicherry-Cuddalore National Highway is the Lakshmi Narasimha temple in Singiri Kudi, Abhishekapakkam where Lord Narasimha is seen in an angry sitting posture facing the West towards the other two Narasimha temples at Poovarasankuppam and Parikkal.

This is the only Narasimha temple in Tamil Nadu where he is seen with 16hands.

Prahalada's darshan at Singiri Kudi
Subsequent to his visiting Thiru Vahindrapuram Divya Desam for a darshan of Lord Devanathan, Prahalada is believed to have come North to Singiri Kudi to invoke the blessings of Ugra Narasimha.

Nimi Chakravarthy, who belonged to the Surya Dynasty, wanted to perform a Yagna invoking Indra and to gain further powers. Vashishta, the preceptor of the Surya Dynasty, was not too keen on this and backed out citing non availability on that day.

Nimi who had made up his mind to perform the Yagna reached out to Kousika Rishi to be present and lead this yagna. After its completion, Vashista returned only to find Nimi asleep.

Angered that Nimi had gone ahead and performed the Yagna despite him announcing his non availability and also with him not coming out to receive the Sage, Vashista pronounced a curse whereby the body and soul were separated.

On waking up, Nimi expressed unhappiness that his Guru had cursed him while he was asleep.

In an interesting twist, the King, who through his various yagnas had gained powers to curse anyone, cursed his own Guru separating his body and soul as well.

Nimi felt that having separated his soul from the physical body he need not revive his life and he expressed the wish that he should have darshan of the Lord through the devotees.

Vashista on the other hand sought the help of Brahmma to liberate him from the curse. As directed by Brahmma, he undertook penance at the Krishnaranya Kshetram of Singiri Kudi. Pleased with his prayers, Lakshmi and Narasimha provided darshan to him here and liberated him from the curse.

The three Narasimha temples of Parikkal (Near Villupuram off the Trichy National Highway), Poovaran Kuppam ( off the Panruti Highway) and Singiri Kudi are in a straight way from West to East. It is said that it is auspicious to visit all the three temples on the same day.

Quick Facts

Moolavar: Ugra Narasimha West Facing Sitting Posture
Goddess : Kanakavalli Thaayar
Priest : Jayakumar Bhattar @ 0413 2618759
Temple Time: 7am-12noon and 430pm-9pm

Chitrai Vaikasi Brahmotsavam
Chariot Festival on Narasimha Jayanthi
Puratasi Saturdays

How to reach
Take the Pondicherry-Cuddalore bus. Get down at Thavalai Kuppam ( 10kms from Pondy)
An auto from here to Singiri Kudi will cost Rs.30-40/-

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mannargudi Train from Chennai Egmore

Mannai Express to kick off tonight

The much awaited daily express train to the temple town of Mannargudi will finally kick off tonight following the laying of the broad guage line on the 14km Needamangalam- Mannargudi section.

Talking to prtraveller, Mr. PV Vaidialingam, DRM, Tiruchirapalli Division said “Train Number 16179 Mannai Express will leave Chennai Egmore at 10pm tonight and will reach Mannargudi at 625am tomorrow morning. Train Number 16180 Mannargudi Chennai Express will leave Mannargudi at 915pm this evening and will reach Chennai Egmore at 555am tomorrow.”

Mannai Express will run on the main line via Villupuram, Mayiladuthurai, Kumbakonam and Thanjavur. The launch of the train to Mannargudi will help devotees to the Rajagopalaswamy temple and the ancient Rama temple in Vaduvur to take a comfortable night train from Chennai. For the last many years, travellers have had to take a rather tedious bus journey to Mannargudi and Vaduvur.

Mr. Vaidialingam also said that with the launch of this new express train to Mannargudi, the departure time of Mangalore Express has been moved to 1015pm
(previously 10pm).

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Appan Venkatachalapathy Temple Cheran Maha Devi

A temple where in Centuries gone by there was a Spring Festival for the Appan Lord and 6 offerings to the Lord on New Moon days  
 Located 1km North of Ramaswamy temple on the Cheran Maha Devi - Kallur- Tirunelveli route is an ancient Chera Period Appan temple in Cheran Maha Devi, one that was recently renovated after having remained closed for almost 50years.

The Story- Milagu Rasam special at this temple
The story goes that a Cheran king, who could not find a solution from the doctor, for his daughter’s stomach pain approached an astrologer who asked him to build a Chatram as well as a Venkatachalapathy temple on the banks of Tamarai Barani. He was also asked to give ‘Milagu Rasam’ to his daughter. To his surprise, his daughter recovered. Hence, Milagu Rasam is special at this temple and this place was referred to as Kanndiyen Chatram. There are about 60 inscriptions at this temple the earliest of which dates back to the 12th Century AD to the rule of Jatavarma Pandya (Kulasekhara I) who in 1200AD on the suggestion of his brother in law Ravivarma ordered that the land of Karungulapparru, an Eastern Hamlet of Cheran Maha Devi Chaturvedi Mangalam, be made completely tax free for daily offerings to the Lord and for the recital of Vedas and Puranas at this temple. 

Monthly requirements of the Lord  
Also, inscription dating back to 1209AD indicates that provision was made for Sandal, Camphor and all other monthly requirements of the Lord. Garland for the Lord Also, during the rule of Sundara Pandya Deva, there was a gift of money by Virasinga Deva for providing Garland of flowers in the Cheran Narayanan Nandavanam in return for some prasadam from the temple. There was also an agreement given by the temple authorities to Pillai Vijayarayan for the 8 Achchu given by him for maintaining the flower garden and supplying garlands to the temple. 
40Kalam of Paddy for Services to the Appan Temple
A 1267AD Inscription during the rule of Vira Pandya II records an agreement deed given to Sriranganatha Bhattar by the Pandarikal Sri Vaishnavas and Nambiman of the Appan temple of Cheran Maha Devi Chaturvedi Mangalam. As per this deed, the latter agreed to measure out 40Kalam of Paddy to the temple for certain services in lieu of interest on a sum of 20 Achchus as they were in arrears to the temple. Maravarma Pandya who reigned Malai Nadu, Chola and Kongu Kingdom, Ilam and Thondai Mandalam registered the remission of all kinds of taxes by assembly of Cheran Maha Devi Chaturvedi Mangalam on certain lands in Idaigal for conducting service called ‘ Kulasekharan Sandhi’ instituted in the Appan temple by Veenaadudaiyan. A 1288AD inscription on the Eastern Wall of the temple records a gift of 2Aanai Achchu for a lamp by pupils of Pinsenra Villi Jeeyar of Mudivalangum Perumal Mutt. The interest on each Achchu was one Ulakku of oil per day. 

Recognising the work of Smith  
In an interesting recognition, Kulasekhara Deva records a gift of an annuity of Paddy and a portion of the ‘deity offered food’ to the Smith Cherai Mangai Silpasari for doing stone work in the Appan temple. New Moon Day and 6offerings for the Lord On the side wall of the temple is a record that states the gift of money for providing 6offerings to the God on New Moon days. 
Feeding Sanyasins and maintaining a Teacher for the Paatshaala 
 On the wall of the South Verandah in the first prakara of the Appan temple contains yet another inscription in Tamil that provides interesting insights about the functioning of the temple in the 13th Century AD. As per the request of Malavaraayan, Sundara Pandya II promised to make a gift of a tax free land at Karungulam, in the Eastern Hamlet of Cheran Maha Devi Chaturvedi Mangalam for benefit of a service instituted in the name of Nakkan Irattai ( Thondai Maanaar) for feeding every day 17 persons including Tridanda Sanyasins and for maintaining a teacher for the Sastras in the mutt called Mudvalangum Perumal Mutt at the temple. 

Spring Festival at Appan temple 
 On the same wall, there is a record of a gift of land by the temple authorities to Azhagiya Manavala Jeeyar, one of the Tridandi Sanyasins who was in charge of the above mutt on the Northern side of the temple for conducting the Spring festival of God every year 

With the Appan temple having been just renovated after several decades, the temple authorities are currently in the process of working out the festival details for the year ahead. With their passion in bringing the temple to wear a new refreshing look, one can expect the temple to also bring back the festivals of centuries gone by that this temple was home to. Interestingly, the renovation has not spoilt any of the inscriptions at the Appan temple and they see to be intact on all sides including the pillars. 
Quick Facts 
Moolavar: Appan Venkatachalapathy East Facing Standing Posture 
Thaayar : Alarmel Mangai and Padmavathi Thaayar
Utsavar : Srinivasan ( currently under lock and key at Ramaswamy temple) 

Priest : Satagopan Bhattar @ 9486621458 (earlierSrinivasan Bhattar @ 89036 69263 / 04634 265268 )
Temple Time: 6am-8am (Saturday and Sunday 6am-11am) - Call Satagopan Bhattar in advance in case one reaches the temple after noon/evening 

How to reach 
Cheran Maha Devi is about 20kms West of Tirunelveli and 10kms East of Ambasamudram. Buses ply every 10minutes from Tirunelveli and Ambai. When in Cheran Maha Devi also visit Ramaswamy Temple which is 1km South of the Appan Venkatachalapathy temple. Mannar Koil Rajagopalaswamy is 15kms from here and Thirukurungudi Divya Desam is about 30kms from Cheran Maha Devi.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thiru Koshtiyur Sowmya Narayana Perumal Divya Desam

Ramanuja learnt the Thiru Mandiram here on his 18th visit from Srirangam
A Divya Desam with a 'Three Tier Ashtanga Vimana'
Avathara Sthalam of Thiru Koshtiyur Nambi

Located 8kms South West of Tirupattur on the Sivaganga Highway is the Sowmya Narayana Divya Desam in Thiru Koshtiyur, a temple that finds a reference in the Brahmanda Purana. Lord Sheerabdhi Nathan, who had come here from Thiru Parkadal on the request of the Devas, is seen in a Bhujanga Sayana Posture at this temple.

This is the place where Ramanuja was initiated the Thiru Mandiram by his Acharya Thiru Koshtiyur Nambi on his 18th trip from Srirangam.

Direction to Thiru Koshtiyur
In centuries gone by, the direction to this place was given as being South of the Cauvery and 40miles East of Azhagar Koil.

Story of Hiranya Kashipu and ThiruKoshtiyurAsura Hiranyakashipu prayed to Brahmma for a boon that he would not be killed by Devas, human race, animals or by weapons. Having secured the boon, he went on a rampage harassing everyone and forcing them to utter ‘Namo Hiranyaya Namaha’.

Worried at his increasing power and anxious at what his next action would be, Devas sought Shiva’s help, who directed them to Brahmma, who further directed them to Vishnu as the only one who could pin down Hiranyakashipu.

The Devas went to Thiru Paarkadal only to be told by Lord Narayana that Hiranya’s powers had spread around the world and they had to go and find a place in the world where His name was still being chanted. They managed to find Kadamba Rishi’s ashram as the one place where Lord Narayana’s name was still being uttered. The Rishi was undertaking severe penance in his quest to have darshan of the Lord as Sheerabdhi Nathan.

The Devas and Tri Murthies went to Kadamba Rishi’s ashram to discuss the plan to kill Hiranya. While everyone remained there, Lord Narayana went back to Thiru Paarkadal where, he asked Sanghu Karna to be born as Hiranyakashipu’s son Prahalada who would utter Namo Narayana all the time, much to his father’s shock.

After Hiranya Samhara, Kadamba Rishi requested Brahmma to give him a model of Lord Narayana killing Hiranya. It was Brahmma who directed Vishwakarma to construct a 3 tier structure at this place- one with Om, another with Namo and the third with Narayana with the Southern side of the tower depicting ‘Lord ‘Narasimha catching Hiranyan’. He asked Maayan to construct the Northern side of the tower depicting ‘Narasimha killing Hiranyan’.

Indra, who had stayed back here till the Hiranya Samhara, presented to Kadamba Rishi the silver plated idols of Sowmya Narayana along with Sri, Bhoo and Neela Devi.

When Pururavan, the son of Budhan (Mercury) flew above Thiru Koshtiyur on his way for a bath in the Ganges, he was brought down to this place through the powers of the Ashtanga Vimana. Having had a darshan of the Thiru Koshtiyur Lord and lured by his presence, Pururavan built the town where people could stay and have darshan of Sheerbadhi Nathan.

'3 Tier Ashtanga Vimana'
This is a Divya Desam with a 'Three tier Ashtanga Vimana', similar to Thiru Koodal in Madurai. At the ground level, there’s a Sannidhi here for Lord Shiva. Above that is a 3 Tier Vimana. On level 1 is Lord Uraga Mellanaiyaan – Sheerabdhi Nathan in a Sleeping Posture. Above him in Tier 2 is Lord Upendra Narayana in a Standing Posture. And on Tier 3 is Paramapada Nathan in a Sitting Posture.

There is a Ramaswamy temple in Cheran Maha Devi, near Ambasamudram, which has a similar three tier Ashtanga Vimana.

On Tier 3, through a small gap one can reach the place from where Ramanuja pronounced the Thiru Mandhiram to the world at large.

Thiru Mandhiram- Ramanuja and Nambi
Ramanuja came to Thiru Koshtiyur to meet Nambi and learn the Thiru Mandhiram. On reaching here, he says ‘I have come to meet you..’ but was turned back on 17 occasions.

On the 18th occasion, Ramanuja started with ‘Adiyen Daasan (your disciple) Ramanuja has come.’ And to his surprise, this time Nambi welcomed him saying ‘Your arrogance is gone. Now we can talk’.

Ramanuja requested his Acharya Nambi to teach him the Thiru (Narayana) Mandhiram. He was initiated the Thiru Mandhiram, subject to one condition that Ramanuja would not share it with anyone else and that if he failed, he would go to hell. Having learnt the Thiru Mandhiram, Ramanuja came up here to the 3rd tier, called out for the people and recited the Thiru Mandhiram to the world at large.

Shocked at this ‘break of promise’, Nambi questioned Ramanuja on his failure to keep up the promise and the consequence of this ‘public’ utterance In a stunning reply, Ramanuja said ‘By sharing the Thiru Mandhiram, I alone (one person only) will go to hell but by having shared it with the world at large, several people will get Moksham.’ And hence, he was ready to go to hell.

Ramanuja as Emberumaanar
Impressed with Ramanuja’s reply, Nambi called him ‘Ne Emperumaal Aanar’ (you have become my Lord). Hence Ramanuja here is called ‘Emberumaanar’. Ramanuja and Nambi have separate Sannidhis at this temple. Outside the Nambi Sannidhi is a board that contains the list of 18 Thiru Mandhiram.

On the third tier, on the Southern side, there is a beautifully sculpted statue of Ramanuja in a sitting posture to mark the ‘ThiruMandhiram’ pronunciation to the world.

Pallandu Verse praising Thiru Koshtiyur Lord
அவ் வழக்கு ஒன்றுமில்லா அணி கோட்டியர்
கோன் அபிமானதுங்கன், செல்வனைப் போல
திருமாலே நானும் உனக்கு பழவடியேன்

நல் வகையால் நமோ நாராயணா வென்று
நாமம் பல பரவி

பல்வகையாலும் பவித்தரனே
உன்னைப் பல்லாண்டு கூறுவனே

In the Thirupallandu verse, Peri Azhvaar says that having seen him here at Thiru Koshtiyur, he too like the faultless Thiru Koshtiyur Nambi will become a faithful Servant of the Lord and that he will forever chant and spread the Om Namo Narayana mantra as well as the several other names of the Lord with the sole aim of relinquishing all other unwanted desires in life.

In addition to Peri Azhvaar, Four other Azhvaars - Thirumangai Azhvaar, Peyazhvaar, Thirumazhisai Azhvaar and Bhoothath Azhvaar have sung praise of the Thiru Koshtiyur Lord in a total of 40 verses.

PeriAzhvaar visualised ‘Aayarpadi’ when he saw Thiru Koshtiyur
வண்ண மாடங்கள் சூழ் திருகோட்டியூர்
கண்ணன் கேசவன் நம்பி பிறந்தினில்

எண்ணெய் சுண்ணம் எதிரெதிர் தூவிடக்
கண்ணன் முற்றம் கலந்து அளறு ஆயிற்றே

When Peri Azhvaar visited Thiru Koshtiyur for the first time, it was Krishna Jayanthi period and the whole place was agog with a festival atmosphere with people singing and dancing around bringing back memories of the young and playful Krishna. Peri Azhvaar visualised Thiru Koshtiyur as ‘Aayarpadi’ and sung praise of this place referring to this as ‘one with big mansions’.

The Name- Removal of all Sins As the Devas came here in Groups (Ghosti) requesting Lord Narayana to kill Asura Hiranyakashipu, this place is called Koshtiyur. The belief is that a visit to this place will remove one’s sins as can be seen from the name – Thiruku (Sin) – Otiyur (removed).

Belief is that visiting Thiru Koshtiyur provides one the fruits of visiting Naimisaranyam Divya Desam, a bath in the Ganges and a visit to Kurukshetra. It is said that a Vaishnavite who does not visit Thiru Koshtiyur will become a monkey in the next birth.

Quick Facts

Moolavar : Uraga Mellanaiyaan East Facing Sleeping Posture
Thaayar : Thiru Maamagal ( also called Nilaamagal and Kulamaamagal)
Utsavar : Sowmya Narayanan
Azhvaar Praise: 5 Azhvaars - Thirumangai Azhvaar, Peyazhvaar, Thirumazhisai Azhvaar, Bhoothathazhvaar and Periyazhvaar

Temple time: 730am –1230pm and 5pm-8pm

Priest: G.S. Madhavan Bhattar @ 94433 41163 / 98654 85886 / 04577 261248, Ramanujam @ 97519 48520

Temple Address: Soumya Narayana Perumal Koil, Thirukoshtiyur 630 210
Also contact: Krishnamurthy ( Guide/Assistant) on reaching there.

How to reach Thiru Koshtiyur is 8Kms South West of Tirupattur, 25kms North of Sivaganga and about 30kms West of Karaikudi. Buses ply every 5-10 minutes between Tiruppatur and Sivaganga

Nearest Railway Station is Sivaganga

Auto will charge anything Rs.80-100 for a one way drop from Tirupattur to Thirukoshtiyur

Place to Stay: Madhavan Bhattar will organise a traditional place to stay at Thiru Koshtiyur

For Cab to go around Divya Desams in the Madurai region, Contact: Manimaran @ 99659 99222/ Vinod @ 96773 23382

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cheran Maha Devi Ramaswamy Temple

A temple with a Three Tier Vimanam like Thiru Koshtiyur and Koodal is in a dilapidated condition and requires immediate attention

Located 1kilometer North of Cheran Maha Devi (Tirunelveli-Tenkasi rail route) bus stand at the foot of the Western Ghats amidst green paddy fields is an ancient at least 1000years old Three Tier Aadhi Narayanan Ramaswamy temple, referred to as the Nigarili Chola Vinnagar Azhvaar temple in 10th Century AD inscriptions and whose deity was referred to as Raghava Chakravarti in a 1020AD Rajendra I period inscription, that currently finds itself in a rather dilapidated condition with bats being the main occupants of the dark prakaras in Tier 1 and 2.

Inscription Insights

There are several inscriptions on the inner and outer walls of the Ramaswamy temple. There are also inscriptions on the way up the steps to Tier 1 of the temple that provide insights into the conduct of the festivals, the daily poojas at the temple, the state of the temple under different rulers and their contribution to the well being of the temple.

Grand Festivals in Centuries gone by

As late as the first half of the last century, there were several festivals conducted in a Grand manner at the Ramaswamy temple. A 10day Unjal Utsavam in Chitrai, Garuda Sevai on the fourth Saturday in Puratasai, a 10th day Chariot Festival (indicating the temple had a Chariot) and a11th day Theerthavari utsavam were among the popular festivals at this temple.

Such was the importance to the festivals at the Ramaswamy temple that there were deposits made for conducting worship of the God on Festival days of Chitrai and there was a gift of money for providing rose water to the God on the Chitrai Festival day (Kulasekhara I -13th Century AD- period inscription).

Theppotsavam in Margazhi was a big event
The Theppotsavam about which we find details in these ancient Chola and Pandya Period inscriptions continues to take place in the Tamil Calendar month of Margazhi. Belief is that Ganga comes here to Porunai river every year on the day of Maa Viyathi Paatham in Margazhi to cleanse her sins. It is said that people from Cheran Maha Devi used to congregate here for a bath at this river on this day.
There are separate rooms on the Southern side for the Vahanas.

Four times a day Pooja- Where is that now?
Even 65years ago, there were poojas performed four times a day as per the Vaikanasa tradition. Now, the temple is open only for a couple of hours in the evening with the opening in the first half dependent on request from devotees on prior intimation.

God was well lit!!!

A 10th Century AD inscription records a specific praise of Vaikanasas for taking care of the lamps at the Ramaswamy temple as they would of their own body, so committed were they that they pledged themselves to maintain a perpetual lamp at the temple ( 1015AD Rajendra I period inscription). The inscription goes on to add that they would have to pay a penalty of twice the ghee for them to continue the lamp service. Deposit of Kasu was also made in the hands of the Vaikanasas for burning a half lamp.

The inscriptions record several gifts to the temple including gift of money for lamp, gift of 25cows for lamp, a gift of 75cows for 3lamps, a gift of money for 2lamps and 4food offerings to Thiru VaykulathAzhvaar and his consort and a gift of cash for lamp for the deity which was to be maintained by the Vaikanasas (1015AD Inscription) clearly indicating that the daily burning of lamps was well taken care of.

Watchman for the Temple

Not just the lamps, the overall security of the Ramaswamy temple too was provided for as can be seen from the 1036AD inscription of Sundara Chola Pandya Deva which refers to a gift of pieces of land by the Merchant Guild for maintenance of a watchman at the temple. One could also assume from the gifting by the Merchant Guild that the business and economy at this place was robust at that point of time.

Loss of Jewels- 12th Century AD Pandya Period event
A Jatavarma Pandya Kulasekhara I inscription of 1195AD narrates an interesting story, that of two priests being held responsible for loss of temple jewels and how they borrowed 3Achchus from the temple and gave a written agreement that they would conduct the same from interest accruing from these 3Achchus.

War time and reference to places around Cheran Maha Devi

A 985AD inscription and similar one in 1000AD in Tamil both on the North Wall relating to Raja Raja I mentions the destruction of fleets at Kandalurch Chalai and Mandalaurch Chalai and conquests of Ganga Padi, Nulamba Padi, Tadigai Padi, Vegai Nadu, Kudagamalai Nadu, Kollam, Kalingam, Ila Mandalam and Cheran Madevi.

Cheran Maha Devi - Location
Cheran Maha Devi is at a very centric location on the Tirunelveli- Ambasamudram- Papanasam route. About 15kms East is Tirunelveli, about 30kms South East is the Nambi Divya Desam at Thiru Kurungudi and about 15kmsWest is Kulasekara Azhvaar Rajagolaswamy temple in Mannar Koil. One can also reach Nagercoil and Kanyakumari from Cheran Maha Devi via Kalakkad and Valliyoor.

The Name

Inscriptions indicate that this place was referred to as Cheran Maha Devi Chaturvedi Mangalam. In those days, the hilly terrain of Papanasam was the short cut from Cheran Maha Devi to Trivandrum. Also, culverts refer to this place as Nigarili Chola Chaturvedi Mangalam. The inscriptions refer to the Ramaswamy temple as. Early 11th Century AD inscriptions state that Cheran Maha Devi was situated in Mulli Nadu.

Three Tier Vimana

Similar to Thirukoshtiyur Sowmya Narayana Divya Desam, Parameswara Vinnagara Divya Desam and Koodal Divya Desam in Madurai, the Ramaswamy temple in Cheran Maha Devi too has a three tier vimana, with Adhi Narayanan in a Standing Posture at the Ground level, Veetrituntha Perumal in a sitting posture in Tier 1 along with Sri and Bhoo Devi and Thiruparkadalnathan in a sleeping posture in Tier 2. Unfortunately, unlike the other too Divya Desam vimanam, this one at Cheran Maha Devi has a worn out look and seems to be asking for immediate attention to bring it to a vibrancy that this temple once had centuries ago.

The three tier vimanam finds a reference in the ancient inscriptions which talks about the ‘top tier’ Azhvaar idol, the ‘mid tier’ Azhvaar idol and ‘lower tier’ Azhvaar idol.

Current Festivals
Puratasi – Garuda Seva
Rama Navami
Krishna Jayanthi
Puratasi Parivettai
Marghazhi Theppotsavam
Vaikunta Ekadesi Procession

Quick Facts
Moolavar: Aadhi Narayanan East Facing Standing Posture along with Sri and Bhoo devi
Tier 1: Veetriruntha Perumal with Sri and Bhoo devi in a Sitting Posture
Tier 2: Thiru Parkadal Lord in Sayana posture atop Adhisesha

Utsava Deity: Rama with Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman
Separate Sannidhi: Veda Narayanan with Bhoo and Neela Devi
Temple Time: 630pm and 8pm ( but the Bhattar will open in the morning if you call and inform in advance)
Priest : Sathyanarayana Bhattar @ 90435 48173
Also contact Kannan @ 90436 73430 for any local assistance

How to reach
The temple is 1km North of Cheran Maha Devi bus stand and railway station
Tirunelveli bound buses (Kallur route) stop at the Rama temple
Currently, rail services on this route stands suspended because of broad gauge conversion.
Train Services likely to resume next year.

Auto from Cheran Maha Devi bus stand will cost Rs.25/-

Also Visit Appan Temple
While at Cheran Maha Devi, also visit Appan Venkatachalapathy temple, which is 1km North of this temple.