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…

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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.

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

Periya Alwar & Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai Thirunakshatram

Today is the Thirunakshatram of Periya Alwar & Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai.

Periya Alwar is one amongst the 12 Alwars and also the father of Sri Andal. Periya Alwar was born to Mukunda Bhattar and his wife Padmavalli as Vishnu Chitta {One whose mind is rivetted to Lord Vishnu} in Sri Villiputhur, a small town near Madurai. Periya Alwar was an incarnation of Garuda.

Periya Alwar bought a small piece of land, converted it into a flower garden and spent his time in making flower garlands for the Lord of Vada Perumal koil in his place. It was in this garden that he later found Sri Andal as a baby [This Garden exists to this day in Sri Villiputur Andal temple].

At that time, there was a king called ‘Vallabhadeva’ who was just and impartial. Once, he asked his Purohit ‘ Selvanambhi’ as to who was the Supeme deity. Selvanambhi suggested that he call all the learned pundits of the times in an assembly to debate the issue and arrive at a conclusion. The king announced a wager in which a wallet containing golden coins {Porkizhi} was to be tied to the top of a pole. This would bend towards the person who is able to establish with absolute certainty the correct answer to this poser. Great pundits from all over the country belonging to several sects gathered in the hall to thrash out the issue. But, the wallet would not come down.

The Lord appeared in the dream of Vishnu chitta and asked him to participate in the debate. Accordingly, he proceeded to the court and commenced expounding how Lord Narayana was the Supreme deity. The pole bent to his side on its own and Vishnu chitta was declared the winner and offered the prize. He was honoured by being taken in a procession mounted on a tall richly decorated elephant. As the procession emerged out, there appeared on the sapphire skies Lord Vishnu clad in his proverbial pink attire accompanied by his consort Mahalakshmi and the entire retinue of divine beings to bless Vishnuchitta. In extreme ecstasy, Vishnu chitta sang his famous “Pallandu” in 12 stanzas praying for the long life of Bhagavan.

Periya Alwar was also called Bhattarpiran, Srivilliputtur Kone, Puduvai Kone, and Kizhi Arutthan.

Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai was the father of Pillai Lokacharya author of the Eedu Vyaakhyaanam, the famed commentary on Nammaazhvaar’s Thiruvaaymozhi written at the dictation of his teacher, Nampillai (Lokacharya). Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai was not interested in conjugal relationships with his wife. His mother was upset and said her worry to Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai’s acharya, Nambillai. Nambillai later advised Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai and only after that he became a normal husband. As his wife gave birth to a son through the blessings of Nambillai {Lokacharya}, the baby was named Lokacharya Pillai, later transposed to Pillai Lokacharya. A second son, Azhagiya MaNavaaLa PerumaaL Naayanaar, was born to the couple at the blessing of Azhagiya MaNavaaLan, Sri Ranganaatha PerumaaL Himself.

Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai attained Parampadham at an early age, but not before producing a rich book on the teachings of Nammaazhvaar, the Achaarya Hridayam.

With reference from
Periya Alwar Vaibhavam – http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/bhakti/archives/may96/0059.html
Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai – http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/bhakti/archives/oct95/0211.html

Periya Perumal Thirunakshatram

Today is the Thirunakshatram of Periya Perumal (i.e. Sri Ranganathar in Sri Rangam). Periya Perumal is the first in the Oran Vazhi (Guru Paramparai).

Here is a small history about Periya Perumal in Sir Rangam. Lord Ranganatha was the thiruvaradhana perumal of Lord Sri Rama. After the battle with Ravana, Lord Sri Rama’s pattabishekam was done. Sri Rama presented gifts to everyone who assissted Him in the battle. Out of affection for Vibeeshana, Sri Rama gave him his thiruvaradhana perumal, i.e. Sri Ranganathar. While coming back to Sri Lanka, Vibeeshana want to do sandhyavadhanam and so kept the Idol near tha banks of river Cauvery. After doing the sandhyavadhanam Vibeeshana tried to lift Sri Ranganathar, but couldn’t. He heard Sri Ranganathar’s voice stating that he wanted to stay there. Vibeeshana was worried, but Lord Sri Ranganathar blessed him and said that he would stay facing his country (i.e. Sri Lanka). So Sri Ranganthar faces South in the Sri Rangam temple.

Pillai Urangavalli Dasar Thirunakshatram

Today is the thirunakshatram of Pillai Urangavalli Dasar, a desciple of Sri Ramanujar. When Sri Ramanuja saw him for the first time, Pillai Urangavalli Dasar was very much fond of his wife. He would spread a mat for her to walk and also hold an umbrella to protect her from sun. Sri Ramanuja was baffled by this and enquired him about doing so.  Urangavalli Dasar replied that he very much loved his wife’s beauty and her eyes especially. Ramanujar asked what would he do if he showed someone even more beautiful, to which Urangavalli Dasar replied that he would serve such a person throughout his life. Sri Ramanujar showed him Sri Ranganathar, the deity of Sri Rangam. Pillai Urangavalli Dasar was immediately moved by the Lord’s beauty and became his servant and also became a disciple of Sri Ramanuja.

Slowly Pillai Urangavalli Dasar became very proficient and learned in Sri Vaishnavam. He became one amongst the favourite disciple of Sri Ramanujar.