Thursday, August 8, 2013

Araiyar Srinivasa Rangachariyar Srivilliputhur

Presenting Araiyar Sevai for seven decades
His most memorable moment was when he presented Araiyar Sevai in the Himalayas in 1978 at 330am in shivering cold at Badrinath Divya Desam 

Araiyar Sevai of Thirumangai Azhvaar's ‘Akkum Puliyum’ and NamAzhvaar’s ‘Enganeyo’ has been a regular during Kaisika Ekadesi at ThiruKurungudi while Thirumangai Azhvaar's ‘Thooviriya Malar Uzhakki’ and Thiru Nedunthaandagam are his personal favourites at Srivilliputhur during Adhyayana Utsavam
While the over 1000years old art of Araiyar Sevai, which was once performed across several Divya Desams, has seen a decline in recent times (it is now performed only in Srirangam, Srivilliputhur and Azhwar Tirunagari in TN) -
one Araiyar is not ready to give up. 83year old Araiyar Srinivasa Ranga Chariyar Swami of Srivilliputhur is now into his 8th decade of selfless service to the Lord and still performs Araiyar Sevai with the same devotion with which he had started way back in 1943 when he was just 13years old.
The origins of Araiyar Sevai
Along with his nephews, Keezhaiyagath Azhvaar and Melaiyagath Azhvaar, Nathamuni presented the Naalayira Divya Prabandham that was until then only in a text form through a visual song and dance enactment creating special Raagams and Thaalams for the paasurams.

His early days
Born in Srivilliputhur on the Pooram day in Puratasi in 1930, Araiyar Srinivasa Ranga Chariyar Swami, a descendent of Melaiyagath Azhvaar, was initiated into this special art of presenting the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham by his father Araiyar Vadabadrasayee at the young age of seven.

His learning process over a long 18year period of mastering the art form included singing the paasuram in a special tune with the relevant raagam, practising the Abhinaya and presenting the Vyakyanam every morning at 4am and again in the evening at 9pm. The entire process involved not just acquiring knowledge of the 4000 divine songs of the Azhvaars but also the monumental task of capturing the meaning of each of these Paasurams and then reaching out the essence of these verses to the audience. The Vyakyanam for the Thiru Pallandu verses alone run into 70 long pages!!
Araiyar Srinivasa Ranga Chariyar Swami has fond memories of his Arangetram in 1943 “I really felt honoured to be led by a music band with ‘melam and thaalam’ and the temple elephant with an umbrella atop me and a sacred samaram (to  fan me)  around the streets of Srivilliputhur and then into the Andal Sannidhi, Vadabadrasayee Sannidhi and the Peri Azhvaar Sannidhi. I was presented with the ‘Kreedam, Parivattam and Peetambaram’. It was a divine moment for me.”

In the same year, he presented his first ever Araiyar Sevai in front of Thirukurungudi Nambi, his Kula Deivam Lord, performing the abhinaya of Thirumangai Azhvaar’s Periya Thirumozhi verse ‘Akkum Puliyum’ and NamAzhvaar’s Thiruvoimozhi paasuram ‘Enganeyo’. Since then, for decades, he has been presenting these two verses at the Thirukurungudi Divya Desam on the occasion of Kaisika Ekadesi.

Enactment of legendary stories through Araiyar Sevai
He has had the unique honour of being invited to present Araiyar Sevai in over 30Divya Desams across Tamil Nadu including at Sarangapani Koil, Nachiyar Koil, Thiru Cherai, Azhagar Koil and Thiru Nagai and also at ancient temples such as Mannargudi and Srimushnam. He particularly remembers his first such presentation at the Parthasarathy Koil in Thiruvallikeni exactly fifty years ago in 1963 in front of a big audience.

Cherishing those special moments, Araiyar Srinivasa Ranga Chariyar Swami says, ‘It was a privilege to travel to these to renowned Divya Desams and present Araiyar Sevai for hours together. Devotees used to gather in thousands and would witness in pin drop silence the presentation that would sometimes go late into the night.’

All through this 70year period beginning 1943, he has continued to present Araiyar Sevai at his home Divya Desam of Srivilliputhur on all festive occasions such as Aadi Pooram, Panguni Uthiram and the 20day Adhyayana Utsavam.

Araiyar Srinivasa Ranga Chariyar Swami has taken many a devotee back in time with his presentation of legendary tales such as Goddess Andal growing into a beautiful young girl, Lord Vishnu demolishing the evil forces - Kamsa and Hiranya, Lord Naryana securing the nectar and handing back to the Devas and Lord Raama’s victory over the Lankan king Ravana, each of which form a part of the divine songs of the Azhvaars. 

Araiyar Sevai in the Himalayas
The most memorable experience of his life was his trip in 1978 to the Himalayas, where he presented Araiyar Sevai in shivering cold in front of Lord Badri Narayanan at the Badrinath Divya Desam. His eyes light up as he recounts that trip “I was sitting outside my house in Srivilliputhur when an astrologer passed that way. I told him I wanted to go North. He suggested that I leave for my trip that same day. I left immediately for Madras and from there I went to Hyderabad and met Sriman Narayana Jeer. From Secunderabad, I went to Badrinath and stayed in the Himalayas for 9days.”

As joyful tears roll down his eyes, he continues to narrate that performance “It was God’s grace that I was able to present Araiyar Sevai at 330am in the morning in front of the Lord. Almost everyone was shivering as it was unbearably cold. But I was out there without a shirt presenting the Araiyar Sevai. My entire thought that morning centred on Badri Narayana Perumal and I was unmindful of the temperature that must have been in several degrees minus.”

Stunned at this wonderful Araiyar Sevai performance and his devotion to the Divya Desam Lord, Sriman Narayana Jeer honoured him with the title of ‘Bhagavad Vishaya Vidwan’.

Two Favourites
His two favourite presentations which he savours to this day are Thirumangai Azhvaar’s ‘Thooviriya Malar Uzhakki’ Periya Thirumozhi verse praising the Lord of Thiruvali Divya Desam presented in Deva Mugari Ragam and the Thiru Nedunthaandagam verses – both during the Pagal Pathu Utsavam in Margazhi.
                   Seen here with his son Bala Mukundan Araiyar and grandson Nathamuni Araiyar

Araiyar Srinivasa Ranga Chariyar Swami can be contacted on 94438 67345