Saturday, May 30, 2015

Azhagar Chitrai Festival 2015

Liberating Manduka Rishi from his Curse
Sesha Vahana, Garuda Vahana and Dasavathara display all on a single day
Lord Kallazhagar getting into the Vaigai on the full moon day in Chitrai is a well known event. However as per the Vaishnavite legend, the purpose of his long trip to Madurai from his abode in Thiru Maliruncholai Hills on the outskirts of the city is to liberate Manduka Maha Rishi from his curse.

This historical episode is enacted every year on the day following Azhagar’s entry into the Vaigai. It is also a day when Lord Kallazhagar provides darshan in different forms at three different venues around Madurai.

This year with the full moon day starting a little late in the morning, Azhagar made his entry early the next morning (Full Moon Day was on Sunday 3rd May and Azhagar entered the Vaigai on Monday morning).

Sesha Vahana at Vandiyur
After his entry into the Vaigai on his Golden Horse Vahana, Lord Kallazhagar made a day long trip along the river banks to reach Veera Raghava Perumal temple in Vandiyur around mid night.

The next morning he woke up early to provide a ‘Vaira Mudi’ Seva inside the Veera Raghava Perumal temple at 5am. For the next two hours, Sundara Narayana Bhattar and Sundararaja Bhattar of Azhagar Koil decked up the Lord in a beautiful blue and green dhoti. 
Sporting a big smile, Kallazhagar mounted the Sesha Vahana at 930am and for the next 2 1/2hours made his way through the streets of Vandiyur providing darshan to thousands of devotees to reach Thenoor Mandapa by noon.

Purana Recital

At the Thenoor Mandapa, Rangarajan, the hereditary descendent of the Andal Thozhappa Service recited the legend relating to Azhagar’s Chitrai trip to Madurai from Thiru Maliruncholai.
The story goes that Subadavasu Rishi who was performing penance at the Nupur Ganga in Thiru Maliruncholai hills incurred the wrath of Sage Durvasa having ignored his presence there. In a moment of rage Durvasa cursed him to turn to a frog.

Regaining his composure, Durvasa directed the rishi to invoke the blessings of Lord Kallazhagar of Thiru Maliruncholai. Answering his prayers, Kallazhagar came in a Garuda Vahana to the Vegavathi (Vaigai) river and liberated ‘Manduka Maha Rishi’ (the rishi who had turned into a frog) from his curse.

This historical episode was enacted at the Thenoor Mandapa in the Vaigai River in front of several thousands of devotees who had thronged in from nearby villages. Belief is that those who visit the Chitrai Festival and seek Azhagar’s blessings get confidence to succeed in the year ahead.

Atop his Garuda Vahana, Kallazhagar provided darshan to the rishi (the idol of the rishi was placed in front of the Thenoor Mandapa) with the lighting of fire crackers and the flying away of a bird into the open skies signifying the liberation of the rishi from his curse.
For the next 7 ½ hours, Kallazhagar provided darshan on his Garuda Vahana through the streets of Madurai to reach his next destination - the Rama Raya Mandapa at 10pm.

Dasavathara Display
After he was liberated from his curse, Manduka Maha Rishi requested Lord Kallazhagar to present his Dasavathara darshan. Acceding to the rishi’s request, Kallazhagar provides a once in a year darshan of his Dasavathara through the night at the Rama Raya Mandapa every Chitrai as part of the Azhagar Festival. The priests were very meticulous taking care to find the right attire for each of his Avataras beginning with the Matsya Avatara at midnight.
Vamana Avatara was particularly a tough one but the priests delighted the late night devotees who stayed awake with Kallazhagar sporting a beautiful green dhoti and providing darshan at 245am.

Suprabatham was being played around when Kallazhagar displayed the Rama Avatara just after the clock had ticked past 4am. The Lord looked a handsome prince in a bright green dhoti with the left hand holding a bow and the right hand ready to strike with an arrow. Following this was the Krishna Avatar where Lord Kallazhagar was seen with a flute in hand and with his legs crossed.

Mohini Thiru Kolam
On Wednesday morning, Kallazhagar provided darshan to the devotees in the Mohini Thiru Kolam before making his way back to Thiru Maliruncholai, thus bringing to end another year of the Chitrai Festival.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Kulasekara Azhvaar Dasaratha’s state of mind

Refers to hunch back Manthara 

Sentiment, Despair, Anguish, Anger - Kulasekara Azhvaar captures the different moods of King Dasaratha immediately after spelling out the wishes of Kaikeyi to his dear son Rama

If Thirumangai Azhvaar describes beautifully, in the Periya Thirumozhi, the desperate state of mind of the rakshashas of Lanka after the death of their King Ravana (, Kulasekara Azhvaar in his Perumal Thirumozhi provides a similar description of a 'sad story' from an earlier episode in the Ramayana.

Similar to the hapless asuras, King Dasaratha too is a helpless state of mind having banished his dear son to the forest as per the wishes of Kaikeyi.

If the asuras in the Periya Thirumozhi pleaded (with Rama) for protection, here in the Perumal Thirumozhi Dasaratha is seen pleading (with Rama) for his return for he believes that it was not right on his part to have sent him out of the city merely to fulfil the wishes of the 'wicked Kaikeyi'.

வந்தாளின் இணை வணங்கி வளநகரம்
தொழுது ஏத்தமன்னன்  ஆவான்

நின்றாயை அரியணை மேல் இருந்தாயை
நெடுங்  கானம் படரப் போகு என்றாள்

எம் இராமாவோ உனைப் பயந்த கைகேசி தன் சொற் கேட்டு

நன்றாக நானிலத்தை ஆள்வித்தேன்
நன்மகனே உன்னை  நானே

He starts off by saying that it was just about the time for him to pass on the mantle to his dear son, the day for him to on the majestic Lion Throne and be crowned the King of Ayodhya. Alas, bound by my old promise, I had to accede to the wishes of the ‘wicked’ Kaikeyi.

செவ்வாயேன் செவ்வுரை கேட்டு இருநிலத்தை வேண்டாதே
விரைந்து வென்றி மைவாய
 'களிறொழிந்து தேரொழிந்து மாவொழிந்து'
வானமே மேவி

Dasaratha is seen visualising the sudden physical transformation in Rama and as he describes this, he becomes inconsolable. ‘You sent back our majestic huge elephants and the beautiful fast horses. You are now on barefoot in a wild forest that is full of thick thorns. The ‘soon to be queen’ is now bereft of even the basic jewels. From sleeping on a soft beautiful bed, my dear son, you will now have to spend your time sleeping on rugged rocks’ and ‘I am just helpless mute spectator’ bemoans Dasaratha.

மெல் அணைமேல் முன் துயின்றாய்

இனிபோய் வியன்கான மரத்தின் நிழல்
கல் அணைமேல் கண் துயிலக் கற்றனையோ

He then turns sentimental and pleads with Rama to come once more and show a glimpse of his handsome looks. ‘I was proud and happy when you broke Lord Shiva’s bow to win the beautiful Sita’s hand. But now are you going to ‘break my heart.’

Kulasekara Azhvaar then captures the change of mood. Sentiment turns to anger and despair. He calls his wife Kaikeyi a ‘dreadful sinner’ and a ‘wicked women’ as he visualised Rama suffering from hunger in the soaring heat of the forests but alas ‘I do not now even have the power to feed you’ for I listened to the foul words of Kaikeyi.

தூ மறையீர்  இது தகவோ சுமந்திரனே வசிட்டனே
சொல்வீர் நீரே

Dasaratha now moves into a lost state. ‘How am I even alive after sending my son away? I am not worthy of being a man’.  He calls Sumantra and the wise Sage Vashishta and asks if what he had done was right.  Should he not have been the man to have gone to the forest after having placed the kingdom in the safe hands of the young and handsome Rama, he asks them.

As he remembers once again those words of Kaikeyi, his mind turns angry again. ‘how wicked can a woman be’ he asks. ‘What pleasure would she have derived by sending Rama to the wild forest and now sending her own husband to death’ indicating that his time had arrived.

நின்னையே மகனாகப் பெறப்பெறுவேன் ஏழ்பிறப்பும்

And he shifts one last time to sentimental mood. ‘How could you, my dear son, take Kaikeyi’s promise for real’ and says that for the next seven lives, he would like Rama alone for a son.

The finale
தேன்நகு மாமலர்க் கூந்தற்
கௌசலையும்  சுமித்திரையும் சிந்தை நோவ

கூன் உருவின் கொடுந் தொழுத்தை சொற்கேட்ட
கொடியவள் தன்  சொற்கொண்டு


கானகமே மிகுவிரும்பி நீதுறந்த வளனகரைத் துறந்து

நானும் வானகமே மிகவிரும்பிப் போகின்றேன்
மனு குலத்தார்  தங்கள் கோலே

Kulasekara Azhvaar then brings out the final unbearable state of mind of Dasaratha. Seeing Kousalya and Sumitra by his side, he hits out once more at Kaikeyi for it was her sinful wish that has been the cause for this gloom all around Ayodhya.

Kulasekara Azhvaar's reference to Kaikeyi’s advisor Manthara.

Dasaratha laments that listening to the ill advice of the hunch-back, Kaikeyi wanted Rama out of the Kingdom.

Kulasekara Azhvaar ends these set of verses with final expression from Dasaratha to leave this world ‘With Rama leaving the city, I too have no desire to remain in this city. My time has come to leave the city and head to the abode of heaven.'

Friday, May 22, 2015

Umpire Ravi debuts at Lords

Terrific decision on the last ball of Day 1

'Great feeling to be umpiring in a Lords Test' - S Ravi

Just the other day he was in the thick of action at the IPL shuttling between cities. But just like McCullum and Boult, Umpire Shiva Ravi too boarded the flight from Madras to London.

It was his fifth test match but the most memorable one to-date. Not just the players, it is an umpire’s dream too to umpire at the Home of Cricket. And it was a great moment for the cricket lovers in Madras when Ravi took the field earlier this afternoon (IST) along with Erasmus to make his Lords debut.

Great Feeling to be umpiring at Lords 

In a quick chat with prtraveller immediately after the end of the first day’s play, Ravi said it was a good feeling to be umpiring at Lords and that he was particularly keen to do well in front of a worldwide TV audience.
(an Indian umpire is standing in a Lords test after a long gap - Venkataraghavan was the previous one)  

Ravi ( says he was delighted to be chosen to umpire at Lords for it is every umpire’s wish to umpire there. The fact that this happened to be a Test Match and a high profile one has made it even more special for Ravi. There has been so much publicity leading up to the Lords Test with papers all over the World having been hot on the topic of Peterson being left out of this summer’s matches, the sacking of coach and the MD and the appointment of Strauss to manage English cricket.

And after their outstanding performance in the World Cup and their moving up the test rankings to number three, this Kiwi test team is no pushover this summer. And hence this was a much awaited clash.

Two of his reviews (by the Kiwis) against his decisions earlier in the day were negated as was the one on the dramatic final ball of the day.

Last Ball Decision
It looked like it would be a quiet end to the day for the 7th wicket pair had batted for 25 overs without any trouble.  But Ravi’s agility was put to test on the last ball of the day.

Bowling left arm over, Boult hit Butler on the pads as he tried to play to leg. The commentators’ immediate reaction was that it may have pitched outside leg and that Ravi may have got it wrong.

It turned out to be a perfect decision as Ravi lifted his index finger almost immediately after the appeal for he had no doubt that it would have hit the stumps.

Butler’s review was negated ( all three reviews against Ravi on day one were negated) .

It was a delightful end to his first day at Lords. And this augurs well for Ravi who has been umpiring more of one- dayers since his international debut.

But this may be the right sort of break for him to get into the Test arena.

Ravi, who will also be standing in the 2nd test of this series at Leeds next week, said it is quite challenging to umpire in England given the conditions (movement (of the ball) both sides, cloud cover, chilly weather conditions etc) – Yes while he was umpiring in the 15 degrees summer at Lords on Thursday, it almost touched 40 degrees in his home town of Madras, conditions that he is more familiar with.

The way he handled the game on his debut day at Lords and the terrific last ball decision (more so as it was from a left arm over to a right hand batsman) should help his confidence for the rest of the test match.

A good couple of games in the first half of the summer could help him clinch a few tests of the Ashes later this English Summer.

( Ravi works for the RBI in Madras and played 1st division cricket for RBI in the 80s)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Divya Desam named after Nandi

Thirumangai Azhvaar calls Nandipura Vinnagaram ( Nathan Koil) as the best city among Divya Desams 

'மண்ணில்  இது போல நகர் இல்லை' - Thirumangai Azhvaar Periya Thirumozhi
It is now on the outskirts of Kumbakonam with limited public transport access. Mini buses are few and infrequent. It is managed by the centuries old Vanamamalai Mutt but not much attention is paid to the temple by the renowned Mutt.One would have to make many enquiries to find this location from the heart of Kumbakonam.   But it wasn't always so for Thirumangai Azhvaar in his Periya Thirumozhi hails Nandipura Vinnagaram ( Nathan Koil) as the best city among Divya Desams.

It is the only Divya Desam to be named after Lord Shiva’s Vahana (Nandi). 

It is also the only set of verses  in the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham where an Azhvaar has dedicated exclusively to Nandi naming him in every single verse and referring to this temple as one where the Lord resides in the place of ‘Nandi’ taking one back to the story of the liberation here of Nandi’s curse and his request for this place to be named after him.

Huge Mango Groves at Nathan Koil
மைய வரி வண்டு மது உண்டு
கிளையோடு மலர் கிண்டி
அதன்மேல் நைவளம் நவிற்று

வம்பு மலர்கின்ற பொழில் பைம் பொன்
வரு தும்பி மணி கங்குல் வயல் சூழ்

Thirumangai Azhvaar refers to Nandipura Vinnagaram as a temple that is surrounded by groves full of bees where one is able to smell the fragrance of flowers all the time. He says that the mango groves here were so huge and growing that one got the feeling that it would one day touch the clouds in the sky.

Amidst these mango groves, he says that peacocks and cuckoos played around, singing and dancing all the time.

கொம்பு குதி கொண்டு குயில் கூவ
மயில் ஆலும் எழில் ஆர் புறவ

He describes these groves as being bright and beautiful that brought positive energy to the devotees who visited Lord Jagannathan here at this temple.

சிறை கொள்  மயில் குயில் பயில
 மலர்கள் உக அலி முரல
அடிகொல் நெடு மா நறைசெய்  பொழில்

Pallava King's Vists to Nathan Koil 
He also makes a mention of the great Pallava King Nandivarma visiting this temple and offering his sincere prayers seeking victory in his battles.

In those times, fresh flowers were offered to the Lord every morning from the huge garden around the temple.

Grand Festivals
மந்த முழவு ஓசை மழை ஆகா எழு கார்
மயில்கள் ஆடு பொழில் சூழ்

Festivals at Nandipura Vinnagaram were celebrated in a grand manner a 1000 years ago. Thirumangai Azhvaar says that the drum beats were so loud and celebratory that it sounded like thick thunderous monsoon clouds coming together.

During such festive times, peacocks happily danced around to the beating of the drums creating happiness among the devotees who thronged in big numbers to seek the blessings of the Lord .

Best City among Divya Desams
Thirumangai Azhvaar is so pleased with the Lord of Nandipura Vinnagaram that he says that one cannot find a better city to worship the Lord than the one here.

He concludes with a positive message for devotees. He says that when floods strike this place and create a deluge, the sincere devotees who had carried the Lord’s wishes and worked for the well being of everyone will be protected and well taken care of during such emergencies.