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.

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