Friday, September 26, 2008

Nectar would pall, not the Lord here

Emperuman is a sleeping beauty and it is all the more pleasurable when he is in Uththana sayanam (posture when is in the motion of getting up).

The moolavar, Aaravamudhan, is seen reclining on Anandan (five headed snake popularly known as Adhisesha). The sayana thirukolam (sleeping posture) is quite unique in this divya desam, Lord here appears, in Utthaana sayanam, as though he is about to get up. Sridevi and Bhudevi are seen on either side of the Lord in devotional posture. Lord, and his consort manifested on their own making this divya desam a Swayam Vyakta kshetram, on par with Srirangam, Srimushnam, Thirumala and Badri etc..

When you are blessed with the opportunity to visit the Lord, please don’t close your eyes while praying, observer closely the following unique features of the Lord. The cheeks have a slight hint of chubbiness. Lord has punmuruval (half-smile) on his lovely lips indicating his pleasure in seeing us. His complexion is slightly reddish; the color of red gold, this is what prompted Nammalwar to exclaim "Aani sem pon meni Endaai".
Lord here almost rose up from his bed in response to Thirumazhisai alwar's command, "Kidandavaaru Ezhundirundu Pesu Vaazhi Kesane" (Do rise and shine and do speak to me). Thirumazhisai alwar was so dedicated that Emperuman was under his command and followed his instruction in another temple in Kanchipuram also, the details are at

Kamalavalli taayaar is in a separate sannidhi and she is "Padithanda Patni", like Renganayaki of Srirangam and Perundevi of Kanchipuram, all her utsavams are conducted inside the temple only.

The utsava murthy (processional idol) sports all the five weapons (panchaayudhaas) – the divine discus, the cosmic conch, the magnificent mace, the sword nandakam and the beautiful bow saarngam – in his hands. It is the Saarngam that gives him his name at this divya desam, Saarangapani. The palm is held in abhaya pose, extending assurance of absolute protection, peace and dispelling fear.

Also the Emperuman's names are unique at this divya desam. He is adulated as the nectar that never palls, the Amudam (nectar) of which you can never have enough. The more you drink of him in, the greater is the yearning for more of him. Another wonderful name, unique to Aaraavamudan and which no other Emperuman has is Aalwan – he is affectionately called Aaraavamudaalwaan. It is not without reason that emperuman became an alwaan too. There are two reasons for the name, former related to Nathamuni and later related to Thirumazhisai Alwar.

During the era of Nathamuni, the divya prabandas had all but disappeared from popular usage. Once when Nathamuni was on the way to this temple, he heard a group of Sri Vaishnavas reciting eleven beautiful tamil verses. The pasurams began with Aaraavamude and concluded with "aayirathul ippatthu" (ten verses out of a thousand). On enquiry the Sri Vaishnavas were not aware of the remaining 990 songs. Nathamuni travelled far and wide is search of the remaining verses. Nathamuni recited Kanni Nun Siruthaambu, poem composed by Madhurakavi alwar on Nammalwar, 1,200 times with great devotion. Please at the devotee’s perseverance, Nammalwar appeared before Nathamuni and gave him all the four thousand verses, which he later set to music and propagated to all his disciples. Since it was the pasuram on Aaraavamudan that led to the rediscovery of the lost treasure of tamil marai, he is afforded a status equal to that of the original composers and called affectionately as Aaraavamudaalwar. This is not just a cock and bull story, one of the naamaavali of Aaraavamudan used during archana is "Draavida Shruti Darsakaaya nama". Another reason is Lord’s relationship with Thirumazhisai Alwar, which was so close that it was difficult to discern at times as to who between them was the master and who the devotee. Alwar is a name given to those who are immersed in the Lord and his attributes. Since the Lord here appeared immersed in the enchanting attributes of Thirumazisai Alwar, Emperuman came to be known as Alwan and Thirumazhisai Alwar was given the sobriquet Piran. Thus the actual Piran became Alwar and the real Alwar became Piran.

It is not only the Lord or his name that is unique, even his abode is not only unique but also beautiful and artistic. The sanctum is made of black granite and is shaped like a huge chariot with wheels, drawn by life-like elephants and horses, all apparently in motion. There are two entrances, Uttarayana vaasal or northern gate and Dakshinayana vaasal or southern gate, to the sanctum sanctorum, each with nine steps. The Uttarayana vaasal is open between mid-Jan to mid-July and the Dakshinayana vaasal is open between mid-July to mid-Jan.

Legend has it that Mahalakshmi was enraged that Brighu maharishi kicked Vishnu out of arrogance as he was not welcomed by Vishnu when he visited him in Vaikuntam. She left for the earth and settled in Kolapur. Lord came in form as Srinivasan, in search of Mahalakshmi, and married Goddess Padmavathi in Tirupathi. As Mahalakshmi was not with him, Lord had no money and had to borrow from Khubera. By now, Mahalakshmi, staying at Kolapur, came to know about Lord’s marriage and subsequent departure of Padmavathi through Narada. Mahalakshmi was very angry and started searching Lord Srinivasa who had fled to paathala loga in Kumbakkonam. Mahalakshmi searched everywhere but her effort gave no fruit. So she became a small child and crawled as BalaKomalavalli in Potramarai kulam. Brighu maharishi was reborn as Hema rishi and started to bring her up as his daughter. Hema maharishi performed hard penance and pleaded Emperuman to accept his daughter. Lord emerged out of Vaideha Vimanam and came in a huge chariot and married Komalavalli Taayaar.
As Taayaar was angry with Lord Srinivasa who has a standing posture to soothe her anger adapted the sleeping posture in this divya desam. As Rama is known to one man – one wife format of life, Emperuman adapted the saarngam in order to give assurance of security for his wife. Mahalakshmi on her part repented for her mistake and from her part took a vow never to leave her beloved husband. Hence even today she never leaves out of her chamber and remains Padhi Thanda Pathni. There is a Paadhala Srinivasar in this temple which is a testimony to the above tale.
This place is also called Bhaskara Kshetram as Surya, who lost his power of brightness regained it after performing tapas on the Sudarsana chakra of the Lord Sarangapani.

The Lord rests under Vaidika vimanam which is considered to be the offshoot of the Srirangam Pranava vimanam. The similarity between Srirangam doesn’t stop at that, here Cauvery and its tributary Arasalaaru form a grand garland by flowing on either side of the town.

Brahma collected all the vedha’s amirtham (nectar) and placed them in a kudam (pot) and placed it on top of mount Meru before pralayam. During the pralayam the pot was washed away by the flood and moved southwards and came to halt in a particular place. Shiva pierced the kudam and the amurtham flowed and formed two ponds. One is Mahamagam kulam (tank) and the other is Potramarai kulam, which is the pushkarani of this temple, as the amirtham flowed from kudam this place is called Thiru Kudanthai (thiru signifying Taayaar).

Couple of unique features. When the contributor of the majestic tower, Lakshmi Narayana, died without issue on deepavali day, the Lord took it upon himself to perform the last rites through an archaka. Till date Aaraavamudan performs shraaddham annually to this devotee on deepavali day. On a particular day in Margazhi, the Lord dons female attire and ornaments while his concert sport a masculine grab.

The temple tower is 150 ft tall and is ranked third tallest among the divya desams. Srirangam at 236 ft and Srivilliputhur at 192 ft are ranked first and second.

Mangalaasaasanam: Next to Srirangam and Tirupathi maximum numbers of Alwars have sung praise of Lord here. Seven of the twelve alwars have lost themselves in the beauty of Aaraavamudan and have contributed 51 verses to this Emperuman.
  • Bhoothat Alwar 2 pasurams
  • Pei Alwar 2 pasurams
  • Thirumazhisai Alwar 7 pasurams
  • Nam Alwar 11 pasurams
  • Peria Alwar 3 pasurams
  • Andal 1 pasuram
  • Thirumangai Alwar 25 pasurams

Location: This temple is located in the centre of Kumbakonam

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

All under one Vimanam

Lord would give dharshan either in sitting (irundha), sleeping (kidhandha) or in standing (nindra) pose in various temples, the key word being either. However, one gets to see the Lord in Sitting, sleeping and standing poses all encased within the body of the vimanam superstructure in Parameswara vinnagaram.

As you walk into the temple you would be blessed with the view of moolavar (presiding deity) in irundha thirukolam (sitting posture) who is Vaikuntha Nathan or Paramapada Nathan facing west. Taayaar of this divya desam is Vaikuntha Valli and is in a separate sannidhi facing east. Like some temples in Kanchipuram Perumal and Taayaar are seen facing each other (west and east).

The uniqueness of the temple has just begun, when you come round the sanctum sanctorum, right behind you would find a small entrance and a flight of stairs which would lead you to another sannidhi, in first floor, where Lord is in kidhandha thirukolam (sleeping posture) with Sridevi and Bhudevi. When you go to the next level (second floor) you have Lord as Paravasudevan in nindra thirukolam (standing posture). Archanai to the Ranganathar in the first floor are done only on ekadasi as that is only day you could have access to view both Ranganathar and Paravasudevan. Archanai is not performed for Paravasudevar. The picture below is Paravasudevar as seen on Srirangam vimanam.
As you walk out after dharshan you would be amazed by the architecture. The covered passage around the sanctum is supported by lion pillars and the walls contain historic inscriptions related to the wars between the pallavas and the chalukyas. This temple was constructed by Nandi Varma Pallavan II between 717 and 779 AD.

Legend goes thus: Dwara Balagas (gate keepers of the Lord) were born as sons to King Veerochana, who prayed the Lord for children. Villavan and Pallavan (Dwara balagas) performed aswamedha yagam, pleased with their prayers, Lord appeared in form of Narayanam in Irundha thirukolam (sitting posture). As the Lord gave his seva as Paramapadha – Sri vaikundanathan, this divya desam is known as Vaikunda Perumal kovil.

The vimanam is called Mukunda vimanam but since it is constructed as Ashtanga vimanam, it is included among temples with Ashtanga vimanam.
The temple is being maintained by Department of Archeology.

Mangalaasaasanam: Thirumangai Alwar has sung 10 pasuram (1128 to 1137) on this divya desam.
Location: This temple is near the bus stand in Kanchipuram, which is about 75 Kms. from Chennai.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Forcing to go Slow

Garuda, the vehicle of the Lord, always is imposing and majestic. He lives, till date, in Thirunarayur (popularly known as Nachiyar kovil) near kumbhakonam.

The imposing vahanam of the Lord is about five feet tall and is made of saligrama stone and it is on this the utsava murthy (processional deity) of the lord of this divya desam is taken during festivals.

A short legend before we continue, the Lord appeared before sage Madhava and requested to be married to his daughter, Vanjulavalli (who was Lakshmi). One of the condition laid by the sage was that his daughter should always be given first priority. The Lord agreed and married Vanjulavalli.

Twice a year during festival procession the Lord is to follow taayaar (on Hamsa vahanam) on his Garuda vahanam. The Lord was in a fix as usually when the Lord mounts on Garuda, he goes very fast (as Garuda is known for its speed, as evident in Varadarajar temple in Kanchipuram) and taayaar would be left behind. When Lord shared this with Garuda, he assured that Lord, that he would manage the situation.

When the Lord mounts Kal Garuda in the inner most prakaram, the vahanam is light and is carried by 4 people as he moves outside towards the temple entrance, crossing the five prakarams of the temple the weight of the mount increases geometrically. In the second prakaram it is carried by 8 people and in the next by 16 people and in the fourth by 32 people and in the fifth by 64 people and once on the streets he is carried by 128 people. Once on the main streets you see the taayaar in hamsa vahanam (carried by 16 people) moving gently in front followed by Emperuman in Garuda vahanam (carried by 128 people) trying to keep pace with taayaar. Devotees find perspiration on Kal Garuda’s body during the procession. As he increased his weight, Kal Garudan reduces weight as he reaches the inner prakarams after the procession. This divine sight can be seen twice in a year.

Kal Garudan is seen wearing nine snakes, eight prime serpents that adore him as ornaments are

  1. Adhisesha as bracelet
  2. Vasuki as his sacred thread
  3. Thakshaka as his girdle
  4. Karkotaka as his garland
  5. Padma as his right ear ring
  6. Mahapadma as his left ear ring
  7. Sankalpa as his crown jewel
  8. Gulika as his bangle in his right arm
Apart from these, there is a ninth snake adoring his sword.

Kal Garuda is a vara prasadhi (granter of boons) and its is said if you pray and perform archana to him on seven consecutive Thursday all doshams would be removed. Countless childless couples, unmarried women and men and people with naaga dosham have been relieved of their worries.

If any of you are interested to perform archana, I could organize for the same. This would give me an opportunity to be of service to the Lord.

Location: This temple is about 10 Kms. from Kumbakonam towards Tiruvarur.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Power of Eight

A simple question to start with. How many hands does the Lord have? The immediate answer would be “Four”, which is correct. At times Emperuman had sported Eight hands. The Lord, due to his boundless mercy, even today favours us with this magnificent spectacle at Ashtabhujakaram at Kanchipuram. Swami Desikan gives an interesting explanation for the possession of eight arms by Lord Ashtabhuja. The Lord’s hurry to alleviate his devotees from the sufferings of the world is so intense that he has doubled his four arms and made them eight.
The Moolavar in this divya desam is Adhikesava Perumal and he is seen with 8 hands. He, in nindra thirukolam (standing posture), is seen holding gadha (mace), Kedayam (shield), Shanku (conch) and Bow, in the left hands (in the same order from bottom to top) and is holding Arrow, Lotus, Sword and Chakram (discus) in his right hands. As Lord is associated with Gajendra (elephant) he is also known as Gajendra Varadan.

Thaayaar of this divya desam is Alarmelmangai, also called Padmasini and is in a separate sannidhi. Like some other temples in Kanchipuram, perumal is facing west while taayaar is facing east direction.

This temple is closely associated with Varadaraja perumal temple of Kanchipuram. There are two stories about the Lord in this temple, one related to Brahma and the other to Gajendra (elephant), the first realtes to the origin and later about a famous incident. Lord Brahma in Kruta yuga (first of the four yuga) was performing an Aswametha yagam in Athigiri hill (the present day sanctum sanctorum of Varadaraja temple). Saraswathi, being upset that it is being performed at her absence, sent ferocious snakes aimed at disturbing the yagam. Up on the request of Brahma, Emperuman appeared with all the possible arsenals to vanquish the snake and protect the yagam. The moolavar is still present in the same divya mangala swaroopan in the temple. In Treta yuga (second of the four yuga), varadaraja perumal flew down on his garuda to rescue Gajendra from the clutches of the crocodile. The pushkarani (temple tank) of this temple is where Gajendra used to collect lotus, to be offered to the Lord. Today the tank is full of lilies.

A short note on the weapons that adore the Lord:

Conch: Symbol of purity. The reverberating sound emitted from the dark hallow vanquishes the devils. This weapon has the unique distinction of never leaving the Lord. The discus would leave the Lord occasionally to maintain righteousness. The conch is also the sweetest as it is associated with Lord’s sweet mouth.

Discus: Symbol of offering protection to the good. It is the manifestation of Sudarshana Alwar. Its blazing rays and sharp swirls would annihilate the evil and uphold dharma.

Mace: Represents intellect. It is the weapon that has the power to annihilate the world. It is also a symbol of the Lord’s supremacy. It is the most compassionate of all weapons for it stays close to Lord’s lotus feet.

Lotus: By virtue of its tenderness and fragrance denotes compassion, affection and other noble traits. It is with this the Lord wines over us.

Sword: It is the manifestation of knowledge. By its effulgence alone it sets to naught the influences of all that is unwise and imprudent. The Lord's sword imparts on one the supreme knowledge.

Shield: It bestows the unstinted devotion towards Sriman Narayanan alone.

Bow: It is the manifestation of satvika ahankaram. The two curves of the bow represent the two systems of exegesis (Karma meemamsa, which talks about the various rituals and their performances, and Brahma meemamsa, which talks about an inquiry into the Supreme) and the bowstring that holds these ends together and established that they are indeed not contradicting but are in sequence.

Arrow: The arrow represents the tatvams which would be imparted to the devotees.

Mangalaasaasanam: A total of 12 pasurams are sung praising the lord in Naalaayira Divya prabhandam. Pei Alwar was blessed with the vision of Gajendra moksham when he sung praise of this Lord.
  • Pei Alwar has sung 1 pasuram (2380)
  • Thirumangai Alwar has sung 11 pasurams (1118 to 1127 & 2674)
In addition to the alwars Swami Desikan and Manavala Maamuni have also done mangalaasaasanam to the Lord.

Location: This temple is located in Kanchipuram, which is about 75 Kms. from Chennai and is well connected by road. This temple is near Yathothagari perumal temple.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Third Eye

On the look of it this temple would seem to be one among anyother temple dedicated to Lord Narasimha. your outlook would change once you see the priest perform the arathi, when he would remove the namam of Moolavar, to reveal the third eye of the lord.

Replica of Moolavr in the main gate

The Moolavar is Pataladri Narasimhar, about 8 feet tall, is part of a small hilllock. Pataladri (Sanskrit) means redhill (Patal - red and Adri - hill). Moolavar is in sitting posture, his right leg folded and with four hands. In the rear arms Lord carries Chakram (discus), in the right, and Sankhu (counch), in the left. The lower right arm is in Adhaya hastam and the left arm is rested on his lap. The Utsava murthy is Prahalada Varadhan and is seen with Sridevi and Bhudevi.

Thaayaar in this temple is Ahobilavalli and is in a seperate sannidhi.

As the Moolavar is part of the hilllock, one needs to go round the hilllock to perform pradakshinam (go round the idol). This is not the case with the thaayaar sannidhi.

Legend goes thus: The Lord manifested in this place on the preyers of Jabali rishi, who wanted to see the Lord after the slaying of Hiranyakashyapu. This village, Singaperumal Kovil, is named after the temple.

Devotees visiting this temple offer panagam (jaggery water) which the temple authorities can organise at a nominal charge of Rs. 30.

As per the temple authorities, depending on the number of ghee lamps lighted, lord bestows the following:
  • 1 gives mental peace
  • 3 would enable to excel in education
  • 9 would rid you of any Navagraha dhosham (problems related to planets in ones horoscope)
  • 12 would rid you of any dhosham related to your rasi (as per your horoscope)
  • 18 would give you power
  • 27 would rid you of any obstacles due to stars
  • 48 would help you excel in business and rid you of any fear
  • 108 would enable you to accomplish your desire
  • 508 would enable early marriage
  • 1008 would be blessed with children

Location: The temple is about 50 Kms from Chennai on the national highway towards Madurai. The temple is 3 Kms after Ford factory on the same side.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Unique form at Ooragam

We have seen the lord in different pose in various temples. He would give his dharshan in Nindra thirukolam (Standing pose), Kidhanda thirukolam (Sleeping pose) or Irundha thirukolam (Sitting pose) or even as he is walking (temples where the lord is depicted as Thivikraman). In this Divya Desam emperuman is unique in all counts.

Emperuman has manifested in the form of Anandan (popularly known as Adhiseshan, the five headed snake) in this temple. He is present in a seperate sannidhi next to Ulagalandha perumal in Thiru Ooragam. Ooragam signifies snake and lord Vishnu gave dharshan to Mahabali as the serpent lord, this place came to be called Ooragam and the lord is called Ooragathan.

Mahabali saw the lord only as Vamanan and wanted to see the lord as Trivikraman. He undertook penance at this divya desam, lord was pleased and gave his dharshan as Trivikraman, as the lord was towering he was not able to see the lord fully, up on his request lord gave his dharshan as Anandan.

One popular belief is that this lord fulfils prayers of unwedded girls for early marriage. A framed picture of this lord can be found on the inner prakaram of Perundevi thaayaar (thaayaar sannidhi in Varadarajar temple - Kanchipuram), the picture is identified as ‘Kalyana Naagar’. You can notice devotees tracing the profile of the lord with manjal (turmeric) prasadam.

There is no Utsava murthy (processional deity) nor any thaayaar.

This temple is regarded by some as Srivaishnava Navagrahasthalam for Raghu, and the lord blesses childless couples.
Thirumanjanam (divine bath to Perumal) done to this lord is said to cure all sorts of problems.

Location: Located in Ulagalandha perumal temple in Kanchipuram. Kanchipuram is about 75 Kms. from Chennai and is well connected by road. Travel time is between hour and a half to two.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Steps 1, 2 and 3

The divine grace of Emperuman and the gigantic view can be experienced in real time in Ulagalantha perumal temple in Kanchipuram. The temple is quite small in size but the moolavar is the largest Archa murthy (idol) one would ever get to see. The moolavar (presiding deity) is 35 feet tall and 24 feet wide.

Before I go into the details of the temple and its stalapuranams, let be briefly cover the story of emperumans first avataram in human form in his dasavataram.

Mahabali, the grandson of Prahlada was a virtuous king. He performed a sacrifice called Viswajit (conquest of the worlds) meaning that which bestows mastery over the three worlds. From out of the sacrificial fire arose a golden chariot, an armor and a coat of arms. Donning them, he set out on a Digvijaya (Conquest of the directions). With the help of Sukracharya his archarya, he drove Indra and Devas to the nether world and occupied Mayavathi, the capital of Indra.

Brihaspati counseled Indra to wait. Nothing could be done and Mahabali would not fall as he is following his archaya’s directions and would fall only if he disobeys his archaya’s direction, a situation that could be contrived only by Lord Vishnu.

Kaasyapa rishi had another wife by name Aditi who was the mother of Devas. As any other mother she was worried and wanted the well being of the devas. She narrated the events to her husband, Kaasyapa rishi, who suggested performance of Payovrata (penance for 12 days when the sacrificers could drink only milk) on lord Vishnu. Vishnu was pleased and appeared before them and told that he would be born as the youngest son of Aditi and would help in restoring the glory of Indra. Accordingly he was born and the child was named Upendra, meaning younger brother of Indra. The baby immediately grew up to be a short statured Brahmin Brahmachari (celibate) called Vamana.

Mahabali was performing Aswamedha yaga (horse sacrifice) and this Brahmachari entered the sacrificial grounds. Mahabali was amazed, by the brilliance of the boy, promised that he wouldgive whatever he wanted. Vaamana said that he wanted that much of land as measured by three steps in his stride.

Mahabali readily agreed and asked his wife to bring water for consecrating water in his palm. His Guru, Sukracharya realized that it is only Lord Vishnu who had come in the garb of a Brahmachari and prevailed upon Bali to retract from his promise. But, Bali insisted saying that if Lord Vishnu himself were to seek alms from him, there could no greater glory for him and he would not retract.

Sukracharya became angry and cursed him that he would soon fall from his high position. And, lord Vishnu was waiting exactly for this moment. Soon after the consecration Vaamana grew and grew so tall that all those who witnessed were amazed to witness such a phenomenon. Vaamana becameTrivikrama and began to measure the three paces. By the first he strode like a colossus and covered the earth. By the second, he measured the Heavens. And, asked Bali where was he to measure by the third pace. Bali bowed low to Vishnu and prayed Vikrama to place his foot on his head. Lord Vishnu sent him to Sutala to rule there and thereafter to enjoy for a whole Manvantara, the position of Indra.

Lord did not kill Mahabali, as he had promised Prahalada that he would not any of his family members or descendants. It is believed the Lord is still guarding the palace of Mahabali and had conferred immortality to Mahabali in recognition and appreciation of his steadfastness in upholding his promise.

As Mahabali couldn’t get the full dharshan of Trivikrama, later on he pananced here to have a full dharshan of the lord as trivikrama. Lord pleased with his request and dedication appeared in this divya desam in Trivikrama kolam (pose).

The moolavar has his right foot over the head of king Mahabali. The left foot is raised parallel to the floor. His hands are stretched out, the fingers counting two in his left hand and one in the right hand, reminding the devotee of his two steps taken, and yet to take the third.

The deity is not of stone but of stucco which has periodic applications of special oil and thirumanjam is not performed to the Moolavar.

Despite the dimensions, the sculptor had an eye for detail, it is evident in the dress and ornaments that adore emperuman. Due to this the moolavar is not adored with any vastharam (Dhothi).

Thaayaar of this divya desam is Aranaravalli Nachiyar and is in a separate sannidhi.

Mangalaasaasanam: A total of 6 pasurams have been sung on this divya desam.

  • Thirumazhisai Alwar has sung 2 pasurams (814, 815)
  • Thirumangai Alwar has sung 4 pasurams (2059,2064, 2673, 2776)

Location: This temple is located in Kanchipuram and is well connected by road with Chennai.