Sunday, February 4, 2018

Srirangam Bhoopathi Thirunaal Sapthaavaranam

A once in a Century Sapthaavaranam coinciding with Chandra Grahanam creates huge ‘agama process’ controversy at the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam

In a commendable move, JC Pon Jayaraman takes a bold and an unprecedented decision of revising the entire schedule of events at the last minute in an effort to do the ‘right’ thing
Thursday January 31, 2018 marked a once in over a century event at the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam. On this day, Chandra Grahanam coincided with the Sapthaavaranam of the Bhoopathi Thirunaal Utsavam in Thai.

The events as it unfolded over the week of this grand Thai Utsavam also showcased the difficulties in managing such a large and ancient temple with many different and conflicting views having to be considered before finalizing upon the sequence of events on the day. Many different factions, each with their own opinion does not make it easy for the authorities to take decisions, and yet one had to commend the JC of the temple, Pon Jayaraman, for a brave decision he took on this day dismissing the officially printed programme schedule that had been in circulation for over three quarters.

The annual calendar
For many years, the Srirangam temple has been bringing out an annual calendar that provides complete details on the days of the utsavams in the year as well as the timings of procession and other highlights of pooja on these days. This calendar of events is also posted on the website of the temple.

For this year, 2017-18, the calendar book had been launched in Panguni of 2017 i.e nine months ahead of this Bhoopathi Thirunaal utsavam. 

The page relating to January 31, 2018 clearly indicated that it was the day of the Chandira Grihanam and provides the timings of Moolavar Darshan as well as the specific timing of the Thirumanjanam, the special Sapthaavaranam Procession, one where Lord Namperumal goes around the Uthira streets listening to Ramanuja Nootranthaathi chanting without the beating of the drums.
As per this schedule, the Grahanam Thirumanjanam was to take place between 5 pm and 730 pm. And then Lord Namperumal was to leave for the Uthira Veethi Sapthaavaranam procession at 10 pm. And the flag was to be brought down at 0.30 am (Feb 1) after ‘Padippu’ thanking the Lord for the safe and successful conduct of the Utsavam.

Till the middle of this Utsavam, this had remained the schedule, until a sudden realization happened with Murali Bhattar, raising the need to have two Thirumanjanams on the day one prior to the Purapadu for Sapthaavaranam (Thirunaal ending Thirumanjanam) and then one after the flag was brought down for the Chandra Grahanam.

Murali Bhattar, well versed in the agamas and who has been here at the temple for several decades told this writer that this annual calendar (handed out to the devotees at a pre fixed price) is usually run through the Araiyars, the Uthama Nambi clan and the Bhattars before it is finalized ahead of the Tamil New Year.
When asked as to why this was not pointed out earlier, either before it went to print or during the course of the year, he conveyed his apologies to the authorities for overlooking the error in the calendar but requested the authorities to take corrective action as he had noticed it ahead of the day and to stick to what was right as per the agamas.

A revision in schedule had many other officials, bhattars and kainkaryapakas raising their eyebrows.

Japta Sampath, known for his loud and vocal voicing of opinions, registered a strong protest against the conduct of two Thirumanjanams and bringing forward the 10pm procession to 1.30pm.  Several decades experienced Raman Bhattar of Therazhundur, a man well versed in the agamas agreed with Murali Bhattar that it was appropriate to have two Thirumanjanams on the day.

The temple had to make a choice between the two options. A programme taking into account the Chandra Grahanam, had been chalked out three quarters earlier with a clear description of the events of the day and the schedule had been officially printed by the temple. 

Do they choose to stick to the popular and safe decision of the programme detailed in the calendar at the beginning of the year after the Bhattar had brought the error to their notice or do they take corrective action and go ahead with the right process for the day and acknowledge the error in the official schedule.

It was not an easy decision to take, for it seemed that on the day leading up to the Chandra Grahanam a majority wanted to stick to the schedule and were not in favour of two Thirumanjanams and a revision of procession timing.

A Commendable Decision by the JC
The man in the hot seat JC Pon Jayaraman took quite a bold and brave decision and quite an unprecedented one at that. He stuck his neck out to go with what was stated in the agamas for such a unique occurrence of a Sapthaavaranam day falling on a Chandra Grahanam.Through the day one could hear murmurs of angst against the rescheduling of the entire set of events on this day.
The 9th day Thirumanjanam after the Chariot festival ended only around mid night and the Kainkaryapakas had to be back at the temple in the morning for this additional Thirumanjanam in the morning on the 10th day of the Utsavam.

This new schedule posted on the notice board outside  the Ariya Bhattal Vaasal on the morning of the 10th day showed the first Thirumanjanam in the morning at 9 am, the procession at 1.30 pm, the flag to be brought down at 4 pm and the second ‘Grahanam’ Thirumanjanam after 5 pm with the Lord going back to the Moolavar Sannidhi at 9.15 pm.
Sitting in front of the notice board, Japta Sampath also questioned the plan to bring down of the flag at 4 pm as it was not to be done before Sunset.

As luck would have it, one that saved the day for the JC and the authorities, the first Thirumanjanam and the formalities following that were so delayed that the procession took off only at 3.45pm which meant the Lord was back at the temple only around 5pm.

Being this special 10th day of the Utsavam, the Lord made his way to the Thayar Sannidhi for Thiruvanthikaapu and then through the now open route alongside the 1000 Pillared Mandapam to the Ramanuja Sannidhi where he was greeted with Coconut Water.

And when the Ramanuja Nootranthathi Satrumurai was completed near the Garudan Sannidhi, it was close to 6pm.  Following the ‘Padippu’, the flag was brought down well after 6.30 pm (after Sunset), even though this had been planned for 4 pm as per the revised schedule saving the blushes for the authorities.

Lord Namperumal made his way out for the 2nd procession of the day after 730pm and following the 2nd Thirumanjanam, he made his way to his sanctum from the Santanu Mandapam after 11 pm bringing to end a long and controversial day at the temple.

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