Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thirupper Nagar Koviladi Divya Desam

‘Jewelled Mansions’ on the banks of Cauvery to dilapidated houses in the Agraharam
The last temple praised in the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham
Thirupper Nagar (Koviladi) is a divya desam that has the everlasting glory of being the last temple to be praised in the Nalayira Divya Prabhandham. It is believed that Namazhvaar attained Moksham after singing praise of Thirupper Nagar, a temple that is just over 20kms from Srirangam along the banks of the Cauvery.

A Prosperous Location in centuries gone by
During the days of the Azhvaars, this seemed to have been a very prosperous town. Thiru Mangai Azhvaar in his Periya Thirumozhi says that very orthodox Brahmins lived here reciting the Vedas all times of the day. Even the fish felt happy listening to the Vedic Chants in Thirupper as they jumped about and dancing in joy amidst the groves flushing with water in almost an enlightened feeling. There are many inscriptions inside the temple dating back a 1000years.

நலம் கொள் நான்மறை வல்லார்கள்
ஒத்து ஒலி ஏத்தக் கேட்டு
மலக்கு பாய் வயல் திருப்பேர்
மருவி நான் வாழ்ந்த ஆறே
The prosperity can further be seen from the fact that he describes Thirupper Nagar as having tall mansions that according to him seemed to be almost touching the moon.
திங்கள் மா முகில் அணவு செறி பொழில்
தென் திருப்பேர்

Mansions in Tirupper were covered with Gold.
செம்பொனார் மதில்கள் சூழ்ந்த 
தென்  திருப்பேறுள்

He describes the fields as being fertile and the green groves filled with nectar.

செய் அலர் கமலம் ஓங்கு செறி பொழில்
தென் திருப்பேர்
பை அரவு அணையான் நாமம் பரவி நான் உய்ந்த ஆறே

தேன் அமர் பொழில்கள் சூழ்ந்த
செறி வயல் தென் திருப்பேர்

Both Thirumangai Azhvaar and Nam Azhvaar constantly refer to the big walls of Thirupper Nagar.

திண்ண மா மதில்கள் சூழ்ந்த  
தென் திருப்பேருள் மேவும்

The Sleeping Lord
On the greatness of the Lord of Thirupper, Thirumangai Azhvaar says that the Lord, who is seen in a reclining posture on the hooded serpent, provides an opportunity to serve (him) to all those devotees who seek no gains from him and compares the greatness and speciality of Thirupper to Srivaikunam. Those who offer sincere prayers at Thirupper are accepted as his ‘devotees’ by the Lord and they are likely to stay for ever as his true devotee.

Sweet Parrots and Humming Bees @ Thirupper
In the Tiruvoimozhi, Nam Azhvaar describes Tirupper’s location as being on the Southern banks of the Cauvery where precious gems are being washed ashore. He could see bees humming sweet tunes amidst the groves. The groves were surrounded by sweet parrots that jumped from one tree to another. He refers to the town as home to’ jewelled mansions’ and ‘mountain like mansions’ where Vedic Scholars lived.

கிளி தாவிய சோலைகள் சூழ் திருப்பேரான்
‘வண்டு களிக்கும் பொழில் சூழ் திருப்பேரான்’

He specifically praises the feet of the Lord of Thirupper saying that miseries will not come near one who seeks the feet of the Lord here.

Thirupper Koviladi in recent times
While in the Prabhandham verses, there are references to sweet parrots and humming bees, the temple had, unfortunately, descended to a low in the last decade. Instead of the humming bees, one found a number of bats inside the dark sannidhis that flew around especially near the dark Thayar Sannidhi. Even the basic requirements at the temple seemed to be missing like the oil/ghee to light the lamp.This was compounded further by the ‘going away’ of Jawahar Bhattar, one of the most committed Bhattars of Divya Desams arising out of a feud between the ‘Rayar’ family and HR & CE. And the temple came under the control of HR & CE just under 10 years ago.

Issues relating to recent renovation
And then a renovation was planned. The walls were in dilapidated condition. There were beautiful murals that needed to be protected. The renovation took place earlier this year and the temple wears a new look but challenges remain. Some of the murals have been destroyed in this activity. The flooring on the outer prakara is being re-laid within a year following the renovation. The painting in some of the Sannidhis has been unsatisfactory as only one coating took place as against the two that was originally planned. And multiple parties sought to take rights relating to the renovation activity.  Setting aside of provisions to the Madapalli has been reduced The Chakra painting seen in the inner prakara on the South West is supposedly being sold commercially as a photo/calendar.

It is important not to see renovation as a money making opportunity but one to preserve the historical importance of the temple. While collections relating to renovations take place in an aggressive way, it does not seem to translate into a better maintenance of ancient temples.

The future
It is a historical Divya Desam, one that is believed to pre date Srirangam. It is one of the Pancha Ranga Kshetrams. Five Azhvaars praised Thirupper Nagar as a location that was vibrant and abuzz with Vedic Chants.

Given the challenges of the remote location, the temple has seen 8 Bhattars in recent decades leading to instability. Bhattars generally lived a very difficult life with minimal income as devotees rarely visited. In the interest of serving the devotees better, the two bhattar families could consider alternating between Perumal and Thayar Sannidhi each fortnight instead of taking full rights of the temple for the entire fortnight.
Shri. Varadarajan, Head Cook, at the Madapalli has been the only one who has been stable having been here for over three decades and been responsible for the presentation every evening of ‘Appam’ to the Lord, which is a speciality at this ancient temple.

A beautiful Agraharam
Till the last century, there was a beautiful agraharam on the western side of the temple with the ancient styled houses on both sides of the row of the houses. Over 50 Vaishnavite families lived here and all the festivals were celebrated in a grand manner and the recital of Prabhandham was a constant feature at Thirupper.
Most of the houses in the agraharam are now in a dilapidated state. Many are in a locked state with the original inhabitants having gone abroad. The Cauvery is seen dry with a strong growth of large bushes all along the banks. In the decades gone by, there was just one Public Call Office that was used by the residents to make phone calls from this temple town, the sign board still exists in the building in the far corner of the agraharam.
Most of the devotees visiting the temple are seen as coming from Srirangam en-route to Divya Desams around Kumbakonam. The temple does not open till 8am and the early visitors feel impatient and skip darshan and continue with their trip towards Kandiyur/ Thanjai Maa Mani Koil and Kumbakonam. And continuing with the recent trends at this trend, the relationship between the young Ramanujam Bhattar and the experienced Raman Bhattar (of Thirucherai Divya Desam) remains sour after the disagreements surrounding the conduct of the Samprokshanam earlier this year.

It is a Divya Desam that is quite remote. For long, it has remained a challenge to reach the temple with minimal public transport facilities to this place. There were no street lights along the way from Kallanai and the 10 km trip was a difficult one to make for most devotees. Given these challenges, it is hoped that the current bhattars will lure the devotees with devotional conduct of the poojas. Temples like Therezhendur have seen a big revival with sincere efforts from Bhattars like Vasan Bhattar.

In the absence of such a devotional conduct, this historical Divya Desam could become even more ignored, into the future.

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