Friday, July 29, 2016

Periyazhvaar Utsavam Srivilliputhur

Evoking Memories of Vishnu Chittar's Victory in Madurai
Vishnu Chittar (later Periyazhvaar) had dedicated his entire life to selfless service at the feet of the Lord in his home town of Srivilliputhur. Once when Pandya King Vallabha Deva ruling from Madurai came across a unique query that he heard while on his (incognito) night rounds - ‘what you want after death should be accumulated in this life itself’, he summoned his head priest Selva Nambi to find him the answer.

Selva Nambi invited Vishnu Chittar to the debate in which there was a huge prize on offer to the one who provided real insights. Many scholars came forward but the bag with the gold coins hung in the balance. When it was time for Vishnu Chittar to come up with his presentation, he stunned the Pandya King with his description of the greatness of Lord Narayana citing various references from Vedic Scriptures.

Even as he was finishing his speech, the gold coins were showered on him, for Vallabha Deva was truly impressed and had got the solution to his query. It was then that he was conferred the title of ‘Bhattar Piran’ and led on a royal procession around the streets of Madurai in a grand event witnessed by a huge crowd. The melodies of musical instruments resonated everywhere and Bhattar Piran was surrounded by a royal retinue with the Pandya king requesting him with open arms to ascend and mount on to the majestic elephant. As he moved along in the procession, he suddenly had darshan of the Lord along with Goddess Lakshmi on Garuda mount against the back drop of the clear blue sky. Immediately he fell into a trance and watching the Lord in the high sky sung verses in praise of him at the same time expressing concern of his safety. Verses poured out instantly as he sung for the Lord’s long life.

Evoking memories of the elephant ride
As Periyazhvaar mounted the white elephant on the sixth day of avathara utsavam in Srivilliputhur earlier this month, tears of joy rolled down the eyes of several devotees for whom the procession evoked memories of the legendary event in Madurai.

Decked with jewels that glittered on his chest, the shining crown on his head that seemed as an indication of his victory in the debate and the huge colourful garland decorating his body befitting a winner and amidst the recital of Divya Prabhandham, Periyazhvaar rode out majestically on the elephant top around the big streets of his home town much to the delight of the devotees who gathered in the porticos of their homes to greet him on the occasion.

Father listens to daughter’s verses
Co- incidentally, that day also happened to be Aani Pooram, the monthly birth star of his daughter Andal. Just a few hours prior to the elephant ride, Periyazhvaar celebrated the evening with his daughter at the avathara mandapa of Andal in the sacred garden of the temple that he had specially created to present different varieties of flowers to the Lord every day.

Seated alongside his daughter in that mandapa for the only time in the year, and in the presence of a large devotee crowd that had gathered to watch this special occurrence, Periyazhvaar was treated, for over an hour, to the beautiful songs of Thiruppavai and Nachiyar Thirumozhi rendered by the prabhandham experts of Srivilliputhur.

Insightful lessons to the devotees
Periyazhvaar in his Thirumozhi says that his real hunger is not when he is starved of food but of the days when he has not worshipped the Lord with fresh flowers, singing praise of him and reciting vedic scriptures. He appeals to devotees to name their children after the Lord for at least then one will get an opportunity to utter the Lord’s name whenever the child’s name is called out. This even if it’s not in the true spirit of meditation will earn one the merit of calling his names every day. The devotees who were blessed to experience the utsavam of such a devoted saint poet went back with many useful lessons that could be implemented in the everyday lives.

Narrating the ‘Periyazhvaar Vaibhavam’
At 27, he is a graduate in Computer Applications and also holds a MBA degree. But he has let go of the temptations of a lucrative corporate career and stayed back in Srivilliputhur to perform Kainkaryam at the Andal and Vadabadra Sayee temple, similar to the selfless service performed by Periyazhwar.            
As part of the concluding event of the avathara utsavam, Veda Piran Bhattar Sudharsanan, the 225th descendant of Periyazhwar, narrated with utmost devotion in the presence of Lord Vadabadra Sayee and Periyazhvaar the ‘Periyazhvaar Vaibhavam’ for almost two hours at the Doddacharya Mandapa taking the devotees back in time to the legendary tale of Periyazhvaar. From an exclusive historical document, he told the story of the birth of Periyazhvaar, the creation of the nandavanam, the now famous trip to Madurai and his anointment as ‘Bhattar Piran’ after his great victory in the debate.

Of particular interest was the way he retold with great insights the story of the ‘Pallandu’ verses where Periyazhvaar sings praise for the security of Lord Vishnu. Sudharsanan remarked that when the Lord asked Periyazhvaar as to why security for the Lord himself, he says that he saw himself as the father and the Lord as his child and hence he cared for the security of his child.

Sudharsanan narrated as to how Periyazhvaar brought the victorious gold coins from Madurai and spent the entire money for his beloved Lord by building the then biggest Raja Gopuram at 196 feet, 11 gateways, 11 Kalasams, the big walls and the prakaras.

‘When the great Tamil poet Kamban came to Srivilliputhur, he was so stunned by the gigantic temple tower of Srivilliputhur that he compared it to the greatness of the Meru Hills and presented an exclusive verse, in praise of the tower, at the feet of Kesava Kavi Raja, a descendant of Periyazhvaar. Also, Kamban, who belonged to the Chozha kingdom, was so thrilled on hearing the Prabhandham verses of Andal presented to her the ‘Kamban Kunjam’, an ornament that he had won after winning over the Pandya poets in a big debate. In memory of this event, Andal adorns this special ornament to this day every year in the month of Thai.’  

Sudharsanan resides in the over 1000 years old Thirumaligai opposite the Andal Sannidhi.

(a different version of this featured in The Hindu Friday Review dated July 29)