Why Srirangam is endearing…

Sri Rangam Temple
Apologies for the length delay in post.

Adiyean had always liked to visit Divyadesams that are less crowded and where we can have a darshan of Perumal whenever we felt like. Needless to say, Alwarthirunagari & Thirukurungudi come first. Tirumala Tirupathi, though being crowded is an exception as visiting the divine hill itself is an wonderful experience. Srirangam generally hadn’t been my first choice for a divyadesam trip owing to the heavy crowd and humid climate. How would Sriman Narayana let me not like His bhooloka vaiukndam? Of course He did make me understand why Srirangam is so endearing to Sri Vaishnavas. Recently adiyean had the opportunity to visit Srirangam and having visited Srirangam many times adiyean hadn’t expected any surprises, but it was not to be. Adiyean went through the Vellai Gopuram and took left to go to Thayar sannithi. Just near the mandapam, out of nowhere, there was a small and beautiful temple of Lord Sri Rama. Adiyean had visited Srirangam so many times but in all earlier visits adiyean hadn’t ever seen it. Seeing Lord Sri Rama always brings boundless joys, but an unexpected darshan brings even more joy. Adiyean’s Srirangam visit had begun well! Next adiyean had a darshan of Thayar and then proceeded to have a darshan of Lord Sri Ranganatha.

As usual there were lengthy queues for Ranganatha darshan, but somehow adiyean’s mother chanced upon to meet a local who took us inside the mandapam and once inside the mandapam there was another known person who got us a darshan of Sri Ranganatha Swamy for a good 2 -4 minutes. One thing adiyean had always felt when visiting temples is that, if we earn for a good darshan, the Lord always grants us with a wonderful darshan someway or the other. Having blessed with a good darshan adiyean had an entire evening to spend in Srirangam. After staying for sometime at the room, adiyean left to the temple at about 6. This time adiyean went through the main entrance. And to my sheer disbelief and joy, just after walking a few meters there was another temple of Lord Sri Rama to the left. All these days adiyean had known of the Pattabhisheka Ramaswamy temple with the beautiful and large deity of Sri Rama and another temple of Sri Rama just nearby, but nothing more. Adiyean was happy to see so many temples for Lord Sri Rama. Adiyean continued and visited all small sannathis that adiyean could find. Finally after visiting Ramanujar sannathi & Chakarathalwar sannathi adiyean sat for sometime in the large pathway between the two sannathis. The atmosphere was magical. A lot of devotees were moving around, children were playing and there was mild breeze. It was only then adiyean realised why Srirangam is so endearing. Srirangam can be enjoyed anyway we like. If we like to see utsavams, there is always something happening for most part of the year. If we like Divyaprabhandam recitals, it happens daily at the Ramanujar sannathi and of course the Pagal Pathu & Raa Pathu during Marghazhi month. If we like to enjoy Him with thousands of devotees we can do it too. And if we like to enjoy Him in serenity, there are lot of sannathis which not many devotees do not even know exist. Or we can just sit and be immersed in the atmosphere of the divyadesam. Our acharyas have written a lot about the greatness of Sri Rangam, but at a basic level for a not so enlightened soul like adiyean, this unique trait makes Srirangam so endearing.

Please share your Divyadesam experiences in Comments…

Thiruppaan Alwar Thirunakshatram

Thirupaan Alwar was born in Urayoor, a town near Sri Rangam. Thiruppan Alwar was well versed in playing Veena and every day he sang songs in praise of Sri Ranganatha. But since he was from a lower caste, instead of going to Sri Rangam, he used to go to banks of the Cauvery river and sing. looking in the direction of the Sri Rangam temple {Like Thiruppan Alwar, Koorathalwar though born as a Brahmin lived only beyond the 7th Agrahara of Sri Rangam. Both of them, though very devoted considered themselves ineligible of living in a divine place like Sri Rangam}. Sri Ranganatha wanted to show Alwar’s devotion to the world and so played a small drama.

Portrait of Thiruppan Alvar

Image via Wikipedia

One morning as usual Alwar was singing in the banks of Cauvery River. But this time he was too immersed in his Devotion that he did not feel the presence of a Archaka (Saranga Muni) asking him to move way, since he was from a lower caste. The Archaka had come to take water for Lord Sri Ranganatha. The archaka then takes a small stone and throws at Alwar, which brings back alwar to consciousness. Alwar immediately moved away from the place to give way for archaka. Alwar was afraid that he had commited apacharam and had delayed the service to Lord Sri Ranaganatha.

The archaka goes back to temple with the water and seeing Lord Ranganatha he is shocked. Lord Ranganatha bleeds at the exact place where he hit Thirupaan Alwar with stone. The archaka is terrified and requests the Lord to tell the reason for his bleeding. Sri Ranganatha says that the one he hit with the stone is his devout baktha. Sri Ranganatha says that He Himself was with alwar in his songs and when archaka hit him with stone He too was injured. Sri Ranganatha instructs the archaka to bring alwar on his shoulders.

The archaka then goes back to alwar and narrates the entire incident. Alwar objects to be taken on archaka’s shoulder, since he held archakas in a very high regard as they serve the Lord Ranganatha himself daily. But when the archaka says that it is the instruction of Lord Ranganatha to bring him on his shoulders, alwar accepts finally.

Saranga Muni starts walking towards him Sri Arangathan through the Cauvery river. Everyone was surprised to see this scene and stood in silence. After reaching the temple, Thiruppan Alwar could not believe his eyes because he was seeing Perumal whom he thought that could never see him in his life. He raised his hands above his head and started to sing slokas on Sri Arangathan. He then started to see the whole thirumeni (body) of Emperumaan and he sung a total of ten paasurams which explain the beauty of Sri Ranganathar from his thiruvadi (foot) to thirumudi (head). He explains in his ten paasuram called amalanAdhipirAn about the clean safron cloth which is worn on the body of Ranganathar, his jewels the thiru vayiru (stomach) from where Lord Brahma originated, the broad chest, the red lips and finally the beauty of the two broad eyes.

After singing the 10 paasurams (known as Amalanadhipiran) THIRUPPAN ALWAR merges with the Lord Sri Ranganathar.

Alavandar Thirunakshatram

Swami Alavandar is amongst the most important acharyas of Sri Vaishnava tradition. He was the foremost to identify that Sri Ramanuja was the future of Sri Vaishnavam and ordered all his disciples to give due respect to Sri Ramanuja. Here is a short story of the great Acharya.

Yamunacharya, also popularly known as Alavandar, was the son of Isvara Bhatta and grandson of the great acharya Nathamuni. He was born in 916 A.D at Viranarayanapuram (present day Kattu Mannargudi) in Tamil Nadu. Yamunacharya was a genius – a child prodigy. He was instructed in all Sastras. He had the gift of eka-santha – graha (remembering forever by learning only once). When he was a pupil under the tutelage of Maha-bhasya Bhattar, one proud Raja-purohit by name Akki Alwan used to collect levies from vidwans. When Maha-Bhasya was grief stricken owing to this demand letter by Akki Alwan, the student Yamuncharya tore it into pieces. When, owing to this audacious act, a royal order was issued summoning him to attend the court, he tore that order too into pieces. The king and queen, having heard of the fame of Yamuna, wanted to see the brilliance of the boy. They sent a palanquin to bring him to have a debate with the Raja purohit on spiritual matters. Yamunacharya went in all honour and defeated the Raja purohit on arguments covering both mundane and spiritual matters. The royal couple, deeply impressed, made Yamunacharya the prince of half of their kingdom. Thenceforth, Yamunacharya lived in all royal luxury.

Manakkal Nambi was on the task of finding Yamunacharya. He learnt that Yamunacharya was in a royal status, attended by ministers and other retinue. To gain entry into the palace, Mankkal Nambhi daily gives Thoodu vilai keerai (a type of green leaf liked by Alavandar) daily to the palace guards, who in turn cook and give it to Alavandar. One day, when Alavandar doesn’t find the green in his food, he asks his assistant for the reason. The guards tell him about Manakkal Nambhi and also add that he has stopped coming to palace. Alavandar instructs his guards to bring Nambhi to palace. Manakkal Nambhi immediately asks Alavandar that he should listen to his Upanyasams daily. Nambhi teaches him the secrets embedded in Bhagavad Gita day-in and day-out, despite the busy schedule of Yamunacharya. Yamunacharya was enraptured by the teachings of the Master Manakkal Nambi. He learnt all about Sri Vaishnavism and Divya Prabandam. And one day Manakkal Nambi says Alavandhar that his grandfather Sri Nathamuni had passed on the family wealth (kula dhanam) that needs to be handed over to Sri Alavandhar. Alavandhar said, “in that case, give me that.” Manakkal Nambhi takes Yamuna to Sri Rangam and showed the wealth of Sri Vaishnava. Sri lying on Sesha, bequeathed to him by his grandfather Nadhamunigal.

The very instant Alavandar renounce all his princely wealth and takes over the task of spreading Sri Vaishnavam.

Further Reading – http://www.srivaishnavan.com/tomcat/alavandar.html, http://alwarsandacharyas.blogspot.com/2007/02/uyyakkondar.htmlhttp://www.srivaishnava.org/sva/alavan.htm

108 Divyadesams and the Paasurams

Its well known that the temples visited and sung by Alwars are known as Divyadesams. But not all of us are blessed enough to know all the Paasurams sung on a particular Divyadesam. And, as if like a perfect answer to this a Sri Vaishnava, Sri Thirukkudanthai Jegennaathan swAmi has posted in his blog about Divyadesams and Paasurams sung on them. Swami has written on 32 Divyadesams as of now. Soon, we might have the info for all the 108 Divyadesams. Also all the posts are in PDF format, so you can download and keep it for future reference. Swami’s blog can be seen here – http://saranagathi.org/blogs/jegennaathanks (Yea 🙂 hosted by Saranagathi.org)

Here is a PDF of First Divyadesam, Srirangam and paasurams on it. More Divyadesam PDFs can be found in the blog.

Significance of Margazhi / Dhanur Month

Today marks the start of the most auspicious month of Sri Vaishnavas, Marghazhi (Dhanur) Month. Here is a little post on Significance of Margazhi month.

  • Firstly, the month of Margazhi is Morning time for the Devas, who pray to Sriman Narayana in this time (One day for Devas is One year for us).
  • Sri Andal sung the 30 paasurams of Thirupaavai to attain Sriman Narayan during these 30 days and finally attained Sriman Narayana Himself.
  • Lord Krishna Himself said in Gita, “Among the months, I am Margazhi“.
  • The Pagal Pathu & Raa Pathu utsavams, when the Thiruvaimozhi Pasurams are recited, happen in all Divyadesams during this month only. Srirangam Pagal Pathu & Raa pathu Utsavams are very famous.
  • Vaikunta Ekadashi also occurs in this Auspicious month.

On a lighter note, Please do remember that, any month, any moment is auspicious for thinking, talking & reading about Sriman Narayana.

Sri Rangam Nandhvanam Issue : Time to act

For most part, this Blog hasn’t had any posts on many Present Day issues / Problems of Sri Vaishnavism. But now, there is a particularly hurting Issue. Many should have known about the issue from the post heading, but still here is a Brief.

For the past 140 years, flowers for Lord Namperumal in Sri Rangam has been from a Nandhvanam {Garden} by name Madhurakavi Nandhavanam. The garden was donated by one, Sri Madhurakavi, a very dovout bagavatha who never married and spent his entire life in Lord Namperumals services. Sri Madurakavi also refurbished the Golden Gopuram of Sri Rangam spending a princely amount of  Rs 1 Lakh in 1903. As per his will, the Nandhavanam should be held under Devout people {Dharmakarthas} and not the Administration of Sri Rangam temple {a.k.a the Government}.  Citing the very reason that the Nandhavanam might be left to ruins under the Temple Administration, a judgement in 1921 upheld the decision that the Garden be under private Trust {Dharmakarthas}. But now, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department is about to take over the Nandhavanam citing some legal formalities in the Will of Sri Madhurakavi swamy. This has enraged the Sri Vaishnava community very much.

As our Honorable Prime Minister said in his Independence Day speech, Our citizens have the right to express dissent and anger. I also maintain that every government should be sensitive to people’s complaints and dissatisfaction, we can express our views through Democratic and Ethical means. The below links can help you voice your concerns. Please do spare a moment to save a Legacy of 150 years.

Madhurakavi Nandhvanam Plea – Take a Print-Out and send this letter to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department requesting it to drop its decision to take over the Madhurakavi Nandhavanam.

www.petitiononline.com/SSMN/petition.html – Sign-Up this Online Petition against Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department taking over Madurakavi Nandhavanam.

Swami Manavalamaamunigal Thirunakshatram

Today is the Tirunakshatram of Sri Manavalamaamunigal, the great Sri Vaishnava Acharya. Lord Sri Ranganatha himself considered Sri Manavalamaamunigal as his Acharya. After the Alwars, the Lord sent Acharyas to redeem this world and Sri Ramanuja {an incarnation of Sri Adisesha} was the foremost amongst them. The Lord instructed Sri Adisesha to be in the world for 200 years, but Sri Ramanuja wasn’t able to be in this world for so long and left at an age of 120. To fulfill the Lord’s instruction {to live for 200 years}, he came down again as Sri Manavalamaamunigal. The chain of Sri Vaishnava Acharyas and the Oraanvahzi end with Swami Manavalamaamunigal. But Manavalamaamuniagal is considered the first Jeeyar, and the unbroken chain of Jeeyars continues to this day.

Sri Manavalamaamunigal was born to ThiruvaveeRudaya Piraan Thathar Annar in Alwarthirunagari {as per Yatindra Pravan prabhavam}. Sri Thiruvaimozhi Pillai was looking for the next Sri Vaishnava Acharya and eventually found Sri Manavalamaamunigal. Keeping up the word he gave to his Acharya & the Lord Himself, Manavalamaamunigal performed many Kainkaryams and spread Sri Vaishnavam as much as possible. He lived in Sri Rangam and undertook piligrimages to many Sir Vaishnava Divyadesams.

When he was 60, Sri Ranganatha wanted to honour Sri Manavala Maamunigal for all his kainkaryams in spreading the message of Naalayira Dhivya Prabhandham. He asked Sri Manavala Maamunigal to conduct an year long lecture series on Thiruvaimozhi at Srirangam in His presence. All the regular uthsavams for the Lord of Srirangam was cancelled that year, while He heard the pravachanams on ThiruvAimozhi based on all the five commentaries starting from aRAyirappadi. At the conclusion of these pravachanams, a small boy came from the back of the sadas and sang a verse that has come to be known as the Taniyan for Sri Manavala Maamunigal

srIsailEsa dayaapaatram dhIbhakthyAdhi guNArNavam
YathIndhra pravaNam VandhE RamyajAmAtharam munim

The audience and Sri Manavala Maamunigal were wonderstruck after the small boy disappeared as fast as he came on the scene. Later, through His Archakas, Sri Ranganatha revealed that it was He who appeared as a boy to pronounce the Taniyan for Sri Manavala Maamunigal {as Sri Ranganathar considered Manavala Maamunigal as his Acharya}. This tanian should always be recited before chanting of the Dhivya Prabhandas, and at the end with the VazhiThirunamam.

Written with reference from – http://www.saranagathi.org/acharyas/mamuni/index.htm. For a detailed Vaibhavam of  Sri Manavalamaamunigal – http://acharya.org/acharya/smm/smmv1.html