Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ramaswamy Temple Thiru Kudanthai

Vasantha Utsavam revived after 50 years 
At a time when there are issues relating to the halting of the Brahmotsavam at the Sowri Raja Perumal Divya Desam in Thiru Kannapuram, a Bhattar's pro active initiative has helped revive the historic Vasantha Utsavam at the ancient Ramaswamy temple in Thiru Kudanthai after a lapse of nearly half a century. In 1968, with financial crisis striking many a temple after the entry of the HR & CE, the Vasantha Utsavam along with the then vibrant Adyayana Utsavam came to a halt at this temple, where Rama is seen with Sita in a Pattabhisheka posture flanked by Lakshmana who is holding Rama’s bow and waiting for his brother’s orders. Baratha is seen holding a brass umbrella over Rama, almost as to protect him from the hot sun while Shatrughna is seen fanning Rama. Hanuman is holding a Veena with one hand and reading the Ramayana with the other, not seen in any other temple.

The Entire Story of Ramayana
One of the highlights of the Ramaswamy temple is the exquisite depiction in a three layer format of the entire Ramayana story on the walls of the prakara.  Inside the temple, there are several stone sculptures depicting historical events in a very artistic form. Some of the sculptures include Trivikrama Avatara, Sugreeva and Vibheshana Pattabhisheka, Sita Kalyana and Ahalya Saabha Vimochana.

Speciality of Vasantha Kaalam
Vasantha Kaalam was said to be a period that brought in a nice breeze in the evenings, flowers were said to blossom and a time that was neither too hot nor brought rains. It is believed that this stay amidst the breezy trees gave the divine couple a lot of happiness. Legend has it that one used to perform Jothista Homam said to help in attaining moksham, in Vasantha Kaalam. Hence the belief is that one will be liberated from his curse if he drinks the sacred water of the Lord during the Vasantha Utsavam. For this reason, it is said that those who visit and offer their prayers to the divine couple during this festival will find a new sense of happiness.
Earlier this month, Soundara Raja Bhattar, who has been at the temple for over three decades and whose father had performed service here for almost three decades, was listening to an upanyasam from the Ramayana.

He jumped up when he heard a reference to the divine couple Rama and Sita enjoying themselves in Ekantham in the forest amidst the beautiful groves with a cool breeze sweeping across them and fragrant flowers providing them with a sweet scent. The words described in the Aranya Kaandam were ‘Vasantha Vihaaram.’ It struck him that this temple had not seen the Vasantha Utsavam for several decades even though it had been an integral part of the annual calendar till 1968 and that it could not be continued for paucity of funds in the late 60s and 70s.

As is the case with most of the temples these days, the Bhattar had to also find a donar to fund the entire Utsavam for the HR & CE does not spend on organizing festivals!!

Soundara Raja Bhattar approached the auditor, whose inspiring Upanyasam had been the reason for the revival thought to occur to him. While the devotee agreed to take care of the entire expenses, an utsavam ‘fee’ had to be paid to the HR & CE to organize the utsavam.

Revived on the Punarvasu day in Aani
And thus after almost five decades, a three day Vasantha Utsavam began on the Punarvasu day this Aani (Sunday June 25). Similar to that description in the Aranya Kaandam, the divine couple came out on a procession, with the tall coconut groves seen on the three sides of the outer prakara waving their branches as if in happiness of seeing the divine couple and almost in a welcoming gesture of having once again agreed to be present beneath the groves through the evening.
Very few devotees had witnessed the previous Vasantha Utsavam at this temple way back in the 1960s and they were delighted that they could have darshan of Rama and Sita out in the open for over two hours. This is the only utsavam at the Ramaswamy temple where the two are seen amidst the groves for this length of time.

Kalyana Kolam/ Rajathi Raja Kolam
On day two on Monday evening, Rama and Sita came out in a beautiful Kalyana Kolam while on the final evening ( June 27), it was the ‘Rajathi Raja’ Kolam with Rama in a majestic posture holding a bow in his left hand and arrow in his right while sporting a tall crown. The beautiful alankaram of the two presented by Soundara Raja Bhattar left everyone delighted and 100s of devotees stayed back well past 9.30 pm to enjoy this devotional experience that they had hitherto not seen in their life time at this temple.
Bharatanatyam/Flute Recital / Nadaswaram Kutcheri
At the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam, in centuries gone by, people belonging to the Daasi Community were honoured during the Vasanthotsavam with a garland of the Lord. They were believed to have lit the lamp and performed a special dance in front of the Lord at the Vasantha Mandapam.

Here too, at the Ramaswamy temple, adding to the visual treat on the first evening of the Vasanthotsavam was a special 90minute Bharatanatyam presentation by a 10 member group. On the 2nd evening was a flute recital by a young boy and on the final evening, a 10 member Nadaswaram group presented a lively kutcheri. 
Once again it has been a proactive initiative of a Bhattar and a subsequent agreement to fund the utsavam that has led to the revival of the Vasantha Utsavam at this temple.

However, as has been the case in recent times, the HR & CE that administers the temple did not contribute a single rupee to the three day utsavam.

Quite a time we live in!! The bhattar revives, organizes and secures the funding for the utsavam that had come to a halt after HR & CE came into force.  While they should have actually contributed to the revival, they had to be paid a ‘festival’ fee.

Kudos though to the bhattar for having revived a festival after a gap of five decades.It is hoped he will be able to revive the Adyayana Utsavam as well.

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